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A Blond Ray of Sunshine (1/19/2020: Chapter 33/End of Part 5)


Imagination Station
A Blond Ray of Sunshine

A young, upbeat Pokémon Trainer named Antoshi travels around Kanto collecting Gym Badges with his best friend and only Pokémon, Fireball the Typhlosion. When Fireball is kidnapped by Team Rocket, Antoshi unwittingly unlocks superhuman powers within him. With the discovery of these powers, and family whom he never knew before, his life starts to change dramatically as he finds out he is destined for much greater deeds.

Author Notes
1) All general replies (“nice story”, “can't wait for the next chapter”) are cool, welcomed, and appreciated. I love hearing all feedback, so feel free to drop me a short comment! Constructive criticism is very much encouraged. I'm always looking to better my writing and make each story more entertaining and engaging. If you notice any errors — grammar, punctuation, plot — please do bring them up. You have the power to help shape this story into something even better!
2) Replies to your reviews here will be done in forum DM's, in an effort to reduce excess posts in this thread.
3) About the title of the story (because I've gotten this question in the past), it is not misspelled. 'Blond' is the male equivalent of the female 'blonde.'

Thanks in advance for giving this story a read. I truly hope you enjoy it!

Genre: Action/Adventure/Supernatural
Rating: T - Violence and Mild–Moderate Language
Current word count: ~204,000 (as of Chapter 33)

Quick Nav:
Chapter 2 »
Chapter 3 »
Chapter 4 »
Chapter 5 »
Chapter 6 »
Chapter 7 »
Part 2: Sibling Rivalry »
Chapter 9 »
Chapter 10 »
Chapter 11 »
Chapter 12 »
Chapter 13 »
Chapter 14 »
Part 3: Intervention »
Chapter 16 »
Chapter 17 »
Chapter 18 »
Chapter 19 »
Part 4: Family Reunion »
Chapter 21 »
Chapter 22 »
Chapter 23 »
Chapter 24 »
Chapter 25 »
Chapter 26 »
Part 5: Frozen Summer »
Chapter 28 »
Chapter 29 »
Chapter 30 »
Chapter 31 »
Chapter 32 »
Chapter 33 »


⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Part 1: A Blond Ray of Sunshine

⁂ ⁂​

On the southern coast of Hoenn, a massive crater had been ripped into the earth. Twisted metal and rubble was strewn about, fires dotted the charred devastation. Water rolled in from the nearby ocean. Echoes of police sirens wailed in the distance.

Slateport City had been entirely decimated. Nothing of the once-populous city was left. Millions of lives, humans and Pokémon, had been lost to the ashes.

High above the remains of the city hovered two shadowy figures. The individuals surveyed the aftermath for a moment before disappearing in an instant.

As word spread, as the police, military, and government personnel came to investigate, and as people grieved for those they lost, no evidence and no leads ever surfaced.

The cause of the destruction remained unknown. It was as though the city had been torn away from existence for no reason at all.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The otherwise quiet Sea Route 20 in Kanto gleamed under the bright, midday sun. Waves crested beneath a large yacht heading westward across the deep, electric blue. Its purpose was to ferry Trainers from Fuchsia City to Cinnabar Island.

Upon it, a young Trainer named Antoshi held the railing with a childlike grin upon his face. He was a charming boy of twelve years old, with chestnut eyes and hair as yellow as the vivid petals of a Sunflora. 'A blond ray of sunshine' as his mother would call him, much to his embarrassment. His red polo shirt and tan shorts whipped around in the sea winds which offset the heat of the sun.

“This is so amazing,” Antoshi remarked, seemingly to himself.

Beside him, a much larger figure with half-closed eyelids and slumped shoulders groaned as it hung onto the railing for dear life. A Typhlosion, the Volcano Pokémon.

"Sure it's nice," the boy's partner replied. "But why do boats have to move so much? Are we hitting a bunch of rocks?"

It was speaking to him — an oddity that was unheard of for Pokémon who were not Psychic-types. An oddity that usually garnered strange looks and questions of sanity at the boy. Fortunately, the others Trainers were unable to hear them conversing over the ambient noise.

Fun and adventure were the name of the game for Antoshi. For Fireball, it was about not getting seasick. It was the Typhlosion's first time on a boat. The motor and the sound of crashing waves against the hull were much louder than expected, intensifying his queasiness.

“You'll be fine!” Antoshi reassured him, chuckling. “The ride shouldn't take too long. This boat's pretty fast.”

"Too fast and too bumpy for me."

“I could put you back in your Poké Ball until we reach shore.”

"No, that's—" Fireball's eyes went wide with horror. The Typhlosion held a paw over his mouth and quickly made for the cabin.

Antoshi smiled and heaved a sigh, certain Fireball would be all right. He gazed back out at the water, soaking in more of their brief trip at sea. The open waters and all they had to offer felt comforting. He had frequently spent his time camping out in the woods or sleeping in Pokémon Centers. The spring air, mixed with the salt of the sea, exhilarated him. It was not something they'd gotten very much of in their journey.

They were on the cusp of new and exciting experiences in a locale they'd never been to before.

Other Trainers watched from other parts of the ship. A mix of boys and girls, some young and some adults, all of them wearing backpacks similar to Antoshi's red one. A Plusle sat upon one of the girl's shoulders, while a Minun did the same on the shoulder of the boy next to her. They exclaimed behind him, pointing out a handful of Mantine breaching the surface of the water. He turned around with a look of awe-struck wonder to gaze upon Pokémon he'd never seen in the wild before.

The Minun fired off a spontaneous electric attack at the Mantine, missing wildly. “Hey!” its Trainer scolded it.

In front of Antoshi, the shimmering red and blue tops from a bloom of Tentacool and Tentacruel peeked out from the water. Common flying fish jumped alongside them. A small group of Hoppip drifted on the winds high overhead. He grinned and laughed, his spirit soaring, his heart swelling with joy.

Fireball headed back outside to see his friend's excitement. Seeing Antoshi so cheerful rubbed off on him. The two had forged an unbreakable bond of friendship since Antoshi's childhood. Fireball was Antoshi's best friend and partner — his only partner. He was the only Pokémon accompanying Antoshi and the only one he felt he ever needed. Through their combined determination, grit, and some luck, the duo had found victory in most of their battles thus far — much to the chagrin of many of their opponents. After nearly a year and a half of journeying together, they were as close as brothers.

For a moment, he saw a strange, red light envelop Antoshi's body. It was like a transparent flame, flickering with the winds. Fireball took his place by his friend's side.

“Feeling better?” Antoshi asked.

"I think so," Fireball replied with a groan. "By the way, you're doing 'that thing' again."

Antoshi gasped in surprise, tempering his mood. The light seemed to recede back into his body. “I guess I got too excited. Did it look like … anyone saw it?” he added nervously.

Fireball shook his head, taking a look around at the other Trainers and their Pokémon. "No, everyone's too busy looking at the water just like you are." The duo smiled at each other. The appearances of the boy's odd light had become somewhat common for the duo as of late. "I'm just glad we didn't eat before this."

Antoshi laughed, prompting his friend to perk up and laugh along with him.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

A few hours later, the boat reached the marina of Cinnabar Island. After docking, the captain of the boat — a friendly and handsome young sailor named Sean — lowered the gangplank. He headed off first to tie down and anchor his vessel. Once secured, he guided the others to disembark as well.

“Here we are, passengers!” he announced as they filed off the boat. “Welcome to Cinnabar Island! I hope you all enjoyed your ride here. If anyone would like to leave gratuity, feel free to do so. If you do, remember to keep enough money to buy food and supplies for yourself and your Pokémon! Good luck on your journey!”

Most of the Trainers gave Sean a few thousand Pokédollars. He thanked each of them. A couple of the girls giggled and gossiped to each other while walking away from him. Antoshi also left some money, after he and Fireball were the last two off the boat.

“Thank you so much,” Antoshi said to Sean.

“It's no problem, sir,” Sean replied with a grateful nod. “Get out there and make your dreams come true.”

Antoshi grinned confidently. He and Fireball departed, continuing their journey toward a brand-new location.

Fireball walked on his hind legs alongside his friend. Being upright was not an issue for him, having become acclimated to it over the majority of their journey. Doing so also highlighted his abnormally tall height for a Typhlosion, standing at over six feet. While on his hind legs, he towered over Antoshi.

The marina, situated on the east coast of Cinnabar, bustled with people and Pokémon chattering and walking every which way. Once they reached its exit, they gasped in astonishment. They were standing at the edge of a lush, sprawling tropical paradise bathed in the glow of the warm afternoon sun.

The sand crunched under their feet as they traveled along a beachside pathway. Everyone appeared totally carefree, as if every day was just another day at the beach. Tall palm trees lined the paved streets flourishing with people, Pokémon, and vehicles. Amid the sound of the rolling tide, melodious squawks of parrots echoed in the distance. The duo and a few others stopped in surprise as a small cast of Krabby sidled across the path in front of them.

Antoshi took the brief pause to look around with a wide, thoughtful gaze. The beautiful island was what he'd always hoped for when he became a Pokémon Trainer. Traveling to new places, seeing things he'd never seen before, absorbing other peoples' culture and way of life — it was all a huge part of the journey for him. They continued onward once the Krabby passed by.

"Can we move here?" Fireball idly asked.

“This place is really amazing,” Antoshi remarked.

“Looks like we can do a little sightseeing here with the spare time we have.”

Fireball's eyes widened upon spotting various food and snack vendors further down the path. "What about a little snacking, too? I see a cart over there selling ice cream!"

Antoshi chuckled. “I guess your stomach has settled down already. All right, one ice cream cone.”

Fireball grinned and fist pumped in victory. He started to shuffle ahead without Antoshi. The boy's heart sank with dread before he quickly stopped Fireball.

“Wait, Fireball!” he exclaimed, grabbing Fireball's arm tightly. Fireball turned to meet the panicked expression on his friend's face. Antoshi quickly relaxed, smiled nervously at him. “Sorry, I didn't mean to shout. I just … want to make sure you don't … err, run off.”

"Oh," Fireball replied, before the light of realization dawned upon him. "Ohh! I understand now. Don't worry, I'm not gonna run off on my own, Antoshi. I don't do that anymore!"

Antoshi sighed and smiled in relief. They made their way over to the vendor together.

Antoshi's journey through Kanto started out as an interest in seeing new places, as well as training Fireball, who was still a Quilava back then. Along the way, however, Antoshi had to curb his friend's unrestrained temperament. Fireball was prone to reckless fits of excitability and hostility, just like when he was a younger Cyndaquil.

With only one Pokémon, they were forced to train almost constantly early on in order to succeed — far more than they would've if they had filled out their roster. As a result, Fireball's power, speed, and defenses rapidly grew to an incredible level.

However, Fireball's newfound power made him even more disobedient. On more than one occasion, Fireball refused to listen to Antoshi's commands. The fear of Fireball being out of his control was something Antoshi never forgot. It stuck with him throughout their journey.

“What can I getcha?” the ice cream vendor greeted them. He was a cheerful older man wearing an apron and straw fedora.

Antoshi casually pointed to Fireball. “My friend here wants to choose.”

“Buying a treat for your Pokémon? It's not often I see that! Most Pokémon don't … handle ice cream very well.”

“Fireball can eat anything,” he replied with a smirk.

Fireball hummed thoughtfully, looking over the different varieties from behind their glass cover. He gasped, frantically pointing at one.

“Nice choice!” the vendor said, spinning an ice cream scoop in his hand. “One double chocolate-chocolate chip banana fudge swirl, coming up!”

Fireball could barely keep still while he watched the man scoop out a big roll of ice cream. He centered it atop a waffle cone before handing it to the Typhlosion. Fireball's clawed fingers wiggled eagerly before he reached out and took it, staring at it in amazement for a moment.

"Waffle… cone …" Fireball whispered in awe. "A cone made of my favorite food."

“Anything else?” the man asked.

“Water, please,” Antoshi replied.

The vendor handed Antoshi a cold water bottle, made entirely of recyclable paper, from a storage compartment in his cart. Antoshi took his wallet out of his back pocket to pay the man, and the two continued on their way toward the city.

Fireball took a long lick of the ice cream and savored it for a moment. He casually placed the whole treat — cone and all — into his mouth, loudly crunching on it.

So delicious …” Fireball remarked dreamily. “Thank you, Antoshi! I love this place already!”

Antoshi grinned as he took a sip of water. He was happy to see Fireball happy.

With the sun shimmering in their faces, they stopped briefly at a crosswalk. They looked around at the thriving city of Cinnabar. The streets were similar to what they were used to seeing in Saffron City, though nowhere near as noisy as their hometown.

“This place really rebuilt and grew since the eruption destroyed everything,” Antoshi said, putting the cap back on his water.

Both of them observed the colossal volcano looming in the distance. Fireball hummed thoughtfully.

"You told me that was decades and decades ago, wasn't it?"

Antoshi nodded in response. After crossing the street safely, the duo were absorbed into the crowd of pedestrians and Pokémon.

“It's amazing to see how far it's come from starting as a small beach resort. I remember one of my schoolbooks showed pictures of what Cinnabar looked like before and after the eruption. It wasn't pretty but, because of it, the island is actually bigger and much more beautiful than it used to be.”

"Guess that's why there's so many tall buildings and stuff." Both of them gazed upward, finding themselves in the shadows of those very high-rises that loomed overhead.

“Well, let's go find the nearest Pokémon Center. After that, we can ask them how to get to the Cinnabar Gym.”

"Oh, yeah!" Fireball exclaimed. "I'm ready!"

Antoshi found a recycling bin to drop his empty water bottle into. A friendly robotic voice in the bin thanked him, followed by the sound of a powerful suction machine.

He reached into the pocket of his backpack to retrieve his trusty travel-size Kanto compendium. He couldn't help but grin at how weathered it had gotten from heavy usage. It was his source of information for each city and the routes that they visited. Not only was it a map, but it also had directories, people and places of interest, as well as various other information like weather patterns and local Pokémon. With it, Antoshi was able to ascertain which way they needed to go to find one of Cinnabar's Pokémon Centers.

They used the locations almost like home bases. The Centers allowed Trainers and Pokémon to reside in one of their available living quarters for up to twenty-four hours, free of charge. It also provided them with free food from their cafeteria, which was Fireball's favorite part of their visits.

“Looks like it's only a few blocks away,” Antoshi said, leading his friend toward their destination.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Once the duo stepped through the Pokémon Center's automatic glass doors, they were greeted by a rush of cool, circulated air. Gentle music played over the intercom system. The splendorous main area was somewhat busy, though the buildings were always designed to feel at home. It was akin to an oversized living room with couches, tables, chairs, and a tall, curved glass wall at the front bearing its trademark 'P'. Handfuls of Trainers sat or walked around freely; talking, laughing, or playing with their Pokémon.

Antoshi and Fireball headed toward the station counter to speak to Nurse Joy. The Center had a few available rooms left for them to stay in. Antoshi took his wallet out and handed Nurse Joy his Trainer Card, which she scanned to verify his credentials. The procedure marked the time and date of his last known location. The system allowed his parents keep track of him on his journey. She handed the card back to him along with a plastic key.

“Please enjoy your stay here,” Nurse Joy told them with a warm smile. “Remember, supper is served at six, lights-out is at ten, and there is absolutely no battling allowed inside. We have a stadium behind the building for that.”

Antoshi chuckled as he put his wallet away. He looked up at his friend with a smirk. “Yeah, we … get that at every Pokémon Center we go to. Fireball and I had a little incident back in Cerulean City. He used to have a temper problem when he was still a Quilava.”

"Hey, that loudmouth Mudkip was asking for trouble," Fireball muttered, folding his short arms across his chest.

Nurse Joy laughed quietly. “I was given an on-screen alert about it when I scanned your card. As long as you and your Pokémon don't cause anymore problems, you're in no trouble. All of us are simply required to inform you of that.”

“Thank you very much, Nurse Joy,” Antoshi replied. “Come on, Fireball. Let's go get settled.” Fireball nodded and followed Antoshi down a nearby large hallway.

Antoshi tapped the key against the scanner of the door of their room, prompting the door to unlock before they headed inside. The two sighed in content as Antoshi closed the door behind them. The room was small and sparsely decorated, yet cozy. Antoshi took off his heavy pack and placed it on the twin-sized bed before stretching his arms up high.

“Now is as good a time as any to call Mom and Dad,” Antoshi said. “We should let them know we're doing all right.”

"They sure do like to worry," Fireball replied.

Antoshi laughed knowingly as they headed back out to the main area. He loved his parents, but they sometimes ended up being a little clingy.

The pair found an unoccupied videophone for Antoshi to sit in front of. Fireball stood behind him and watched as the boy placed his Trainer Card against the screen, instantly lighting up with a list of his registered contacts. His list only had one, however. He tapped the 'Home' contact, and the phone dialed. The ringback tone played only once before his mother quickly answered.

“Hello, Antoshi!” she cheerfully exclaimed, waving to him.

“Hey, son!” his father added, standing behind her. Antoshi and Fireball waved back to them.

“We got the alert a few minutes ago,” his mother said, “that you signed in to the Cinnabar Island Pokémon Center.”

“You guys wait by the phone every time that happens, huh?” the boy asked with a jovial smirk.

Every time!” both parents exuberantly exclaimed.

A few nearby people curiously turned to him after his parents' loud shout. Making a spectacle out of himself was not something Antoshi was fond of. He nervously lowered the call volume via a button on the screen's frame as covertly as he could, hoping his parents wouldn't realize.

“How is it there?” his father asked. “I'll bet it's beautiful!”

“It really is,” he replied with a nervous chuckle, before regaining his composure. “Fireball and I would love to stay and visit here longer, but the date of the Indigo League Tournament is almost here and we're so close to finishing our run. This is definitely the year we're going, Mom — Fireball and I can feel it.”

“Oh, goodness,” she said, with pride in her voice. “I'm so excited and so nervous for you, Antoshi. I know you and Fireball are going to do your absolute best!”

“We sure will,” Antoshi replied. He looked over at Fireball, who responded with a confident nod.

“Well, we don't want to take up anymore of your time, Antoshi,” his dad said. “You know how clingy your mother gets,” he added with a guffaw.

She cut her eyes at her husband before closing her eyes in defeat.

“Okay, so I am a little clingy,” she admitted. The others laughed in response. She gave her son a warm smile. “That's only because we love you so much, Antoshi. It's always so wonderful when I get to see my big boy's shining face.”

Antoshi turned red and chuckled coyly, looking around to make sure no one nearby heard her remarks that time.

“We're always behind you one-hundred percent, Antoshi!” his dad remarked.

“Love you both,” Antoshi said, grinning. “Talk to you again soon!”

The screen displayed 'Call Ended' before turning off. Antoshi sighed happily. He got up, looking to his friend with a confident grin.

“You ready to go for that seventh badge, buddy?”

"Do you even have to ask?" Fireball replied with a smirk, sharing a quick fist-bump with his friend.

With Antoshi's map stored away in their room, they headed over to Nurse Joy to ask her for directions to the Gym. She informed them to look for a large red building closest to the base of the volcano. Antoshi thanked her again, and the two were promptly on their way.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

On foot, it took the pair a couple of hours to reach the Gym. In the meantime, they experienced some more sights of the city. The late afternoon sun cast a cozy orange glow on their bustling new surroundings. They witnessed talented street performers and artists. They stopped to watch a group of hula dancers. The dancers flowed in sync with each other, as well as with the various forms of Oricorio in their troupe.

Antoshi was taken by surprise when one of the dancers, a young lady, came up to him. He blinked incredulously as she placed a lei in the style of a Comfey around his neck — a common offering for tourists of the island. Fireball grinned, snickering as he watched his friend gawk, slack-jawed by her. She smiled at him, and Antoshi offered a timid smile of his own in response. His heart was pounding, his palms sweating profusely.

She giggled and took her place back with the small dancing troupe. The duo walked away.

"Antoshi has a cru~sh!" Fireball playfully said, with a cheeky grin. "Ask her to travel with us."

Antoshi had been incredibly shy as a child, oftentimes too nervous to talk to new people. Making friends was troubling for him back then. Some of that shyness continued to carry over even as he grew — especially when it came to pretty girls. Fireball typically teased him about it whenever he could.

Antoshi put his hands in his pockets and kept his gaze locked to the ground. “I am not going to ask her to travel with us,” he muttered. Fireball held back a chortle.

"You should go back there and ask her on a date. I'll chaperone you."

“Will you knock it off?” Antoshi snapped.

Fireball burst out laughing while Antoshi stewed, growling to himself. Antoshi suddenly noticed one of his forearms glowing with his mysterious light. He gasped quietly, holding his arm behind his back to keep Fireball from becoming concerned.

‘Gotta relax,’ he thought, closing his eyes briefly. ‘Can't let my emotions get out of control. Just relax. Just relax …’

His hand rattled from the power that came with the light. He tried to restrain it, but it was surprisingly intense. The other people on the street seemed completely unaware of its presence.

‘Don't lose control …’

He clenched his eyes and strained, his forehead sweating, his heart palpitating. As he flexed his hand open, a bright fist-sized ball of red light suddenly erupted from his palm. It shot like a bullet across the street, striking a blue post box which caused it to explode violently.

The people nearby stopped and screamed in shock as metallic shrapnel rained down onto the street. Partially burnt envelopes and packages scattered in all directions.

"Whoa," Fireball remarked, looking at the aftermath just like the other passersby. "What the heck just happened?"

He turned to Antoshi, finding him shuffling away in a panic. Fireball was stunned. It was unlike the boy not to make sure people were okay after such an incident.

"Antoshi?" he said, catching up to his friend. "Don't you think we should check out what happened?"

“They're okay,” Antoshi replied, visibly flustered. He offered his friend a thin smile before turning away to hide a guilty expression. “I saw them from across the street. Everyone's fine.”

"Oh. All right. You picked up on that a lot faster than I did, then! What do you think caused it?"

“I … I don't know. Could've been a prank, or … maybe something went terribly wrong.”

Antoshi steadied his breathing and his nerves, continuing on with Fireball toward their destination.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

They were nearing closer to the Gym, prompting them to put on serious faces. Once the duo crossed another street, they stood before a modest, red building that simply read 'GYM' over its glass front doors.

“Lucky number seven,” Antoshi remarked as they studied the building. “Let's go!”

They marched confidently up to the automatic doors. Before the doors could slide open, the pair ended up walking face-first into the glass. They froze in place, dumbfounded, remaining pressed up against the doors.

"Is it … closed?" Fireball asked, muffled by the glass.

A computerized chirp resonated next to them. They peeled themselves away from the door to find a screen display lit up on the wall next to the door.

“Welcome, Trainer!” the digitized female voice of a pixelated woman said. “This is the Cinnabar Island Gym! If you wish to challenge this Gym's Leader, you'll need to have sharp battling skills and a sharp mind! You will find monitors like this one throughout the Gym, situated in front of a set of locked doors. You are required to answer a question displayed on the screen by tapping one of the four multiple-choice answers, but you only have thirty seconds to make a choice! Get it right, and you may move on to the next room! Get it wrong or let time run out, and you will have to battle the Trainer stationed in each room to progress further. If you wish to keep your Pokémon in tip-top shape to battle the Leader, you'd best answer correctly!”

After a brief pause, Fireball gazed over at his friend. "Is this what school is like?"

Antoshi chuckled. “Yes, but with a bit less pressure. I just hope we come up with the correct answers to whatever—”

“Question number one!” the digitized woman suddenly spoke, surprising the pair. “Which Gym are you at right now?”

The screen displayed each choice, which included 'Cinnamon', 'Cranberry', and 'Cyndaquil'.

"Does that one say 'Cyndaquil'?" Fireball asked. "Pick that one."

Antoshi smirked before tapping on 'Cinnabar'. They were greeted with a green check mark and the sound of ringing bells.

“That's correct! You may now proceed inside!” The doors slid open, granting entry to them. “Don't get too excited, though! The questions will only get tougher from here!”

"Thank you, lady on the screen!" Fireball cheerfully said, waving to the computer. The pair headed inside and the doors slid closed behind them.

They immediately felt tiny beneath the Gym's incredibly tall ceiling. The floor was patterned with red and white tiles. Everything was kept clean and shiny as if brand-new.

They marched up a small set of stairs, which brought them to the first open room. A rotund man wearing loose clothes adorned with flame patterns sat on a chair near the monitor. He was in a class of Trainers called 'Firebreathers', due to their penchant of performing fire breathing displays before battles, as well as their affinity for Fire-type Pokémon. It was hard to tell at first due to his dark red sunglasses, but the man was actually sound asleep. They crept by in an attempt to let him sleep, until the loud monitor came to life.

“Welcome, Trainer!” the digitized lady exclaimed, rousing the Firebreather awake. He yawned and stood up. From behind his back, he pulled out a Poké Ball, expanded it, and tossed it up and down while he stood by.

“Which of the following is true?” the computer asked. Its display showed several choices. 'Fire is strong against Water', 'There are 9 certified Pokémon League Badges', 'Arbok evolves into Seviper', and 'Quizzes are fun!'

Antoshi quirked an eyebrow. “This is a trivia question?”

Fireball hummed in thought. "Seems tough," he remarked, looking over the answers.

Antoshi shook his head in amusement, tapping the fourth answer. “Correct!” the computer told them before the next set of automatic doors opened. “You may move on to the next room.”

As Antoshi and Fireball went ahead, the Firebreather shrugged and sat back down in his chair to resume napping.

“Fireball, you can't read,” Antoshi said, once they were out of earshot.

"Exactly my point!" Fireball replied.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi put his studious knowledge of Pokémon to use in the Gym. The many books he read on training, Pokémon biology and their natures all suddenly paid off. In his endeavor to gain information and maps about the Kanto region, he had subscribed to various magazines targeting Trainers. His studies and over a year of experience as a Trainer made the quiz questions fun.

The questions did become progressively harder, as they'd been told. 'Where are wild Jynx found?' and 'Can Umbreon learn Sucker Punch?' There were also tricky questions like 'Does Magneton weigh as much as three Magnemite?' The time limit kept him on his toes.

He remained calm and patient, studying each question and carefully choosing an answer. Each room's Fire-specialist Trainer was eager and ready to battle. As the boy continued picking correct answers, they were left with the dashed hopes of breaking the monotony. Antoshi was only focused on getting his one Pokémon through to the Gym Leader unscathed.

After clearing a dozen quiz machines, the final set of automatic doors opened to reveal a large battling stadium.

"Finally!" Fireball exclaimed. "I was ready to fall asleep like those Trainers back there."

On the opposite end of stadium room, a person in a white lab coat laid napping on a sofa. The pair looked around as they approached the challenger's side of the field. The room was just as neat, tidy, and polished as the rest of the Gym. The slumbering Leader seemed to take very good care of it.

They took their marks on the opposite end of a giant Poké Ball etched into the ground, poised confidently and ready for battle, waiting a short time.

That short time turned into a minute.

“I'll bet this is some kind of strategy,” Antoshi whispered to his friend. “All those trivia questions, then forcing us to wait patiently until they're ready. It must be a plan to wear us down.” Fireball nodded in agreement.

Two minutes passed, then three, then four…

As they continued to wait, their shoulders became slumped over from boredom. "Are you sure this is strategy?" Fireball curiously asked.

“Absolutely not,” Antoshi replied flatly before clearing his throat. “Excuse me! Hello?”

“Huh?” a feminine voice responded from the couch. The Gym Leader in the lab coat sat up and stretched, yawning loudly. “I didn't know there was a challenger. The sounds of battling usually wakes me up.”

A girl in her teens with lightly tanned skin slowly got to her feet. She wore dark, black glasses and a conspicuous bald cap that did little to hide the long, orange hair that reached the small of her back. She sported a long, graying mustache on her upper lip.

“I see now,” she said, stretching her sides. “You guys decided to do the boring, brainy route, didn't you? That's pretty dumb. Pretty smart, but pretty dumb. Most challengers to my awesome Gym like to actually get their hands dirty and battle as many of my Trainers as they can. Then I get to pick them off easy because their Pokémon are weak by the time they get here! Well, good job, I guess, 'Brainy'.

Antoshi was flabbergasted. “Err, … you require people to use those trivia machines. It even said outside that you have to have a 'sharp mind' to get through the Gym.”

“Well, duh, I know that! People like you are so boring, though! A lot of the Trainers go through at least one battle here. Sheesh!”

Fireball blinked curiously. "Is … that a mustache?" he asked, keeping his voice low.

“I didn't even know girls could grow mustaches,” Antoshi replied.

“It's not a real mustache, you stupid … person!” she stumbled, angered. She noticed the lei that Antoshi was wearing and suddenly became quite arrogant. “You're lucky I'm even entertaining a challenge from some goofy tourist who wandered inside my Gym.”

Antoshi and Fireball looked at each other in confusion. “I'm not some 'tourist',” Antoshi countered. “I'm a Trainer with six badges!”

“Blah, blah, blah,” she replied, mocking him with her hand. “So what? You've got six badges, but I don't see any extra Poké Balls on you. You're not going to get any farther with just one Pokémon.”

Antoshi smirked. “You may be right about that, but, you're not the first person to tell us that, and you won't be the last we prove wrong! This is our life's work you're facing — our heart and soul—” Fireball interrupted Antoshi's dramatic speech, tapping Antoshi on the shoulder to get his attention. He pointed at the mustache on her face. “Oh, yeah. By the way, why are you wearing that … everything?”

She folded her arms across her chest. “Ha! Of course you wouldn't recognize who I look like, you silly tourist!”

“But, you just look like an old man …” Antoshi trailed off, recalling some famous Gym Leaders from one of his magazines. “Wait a minute, you're dressed like one of the people that used to run this Gym — Blaine!”

She laughed haughtily. “That's right, Brainy! I happen to be his great-great-granddaughter! … In spirit,” she added, with an awkward cough. Antoshi and Fireball both quirked an eyebrow. “Okay, I'm not actually his descendant, but Blaine has been a hero of mine ever since I learned about the history of our amazing island and our legendary Trainers! I promised myself that I would become the most amazing and powerful Fire-type Trainer that Cinnabar has to offer, and guess what? I did! After the previous Gym Leader retired a couple months ago, I took his place, and here I am! I'm kinda new as a Gym Leader, but you're still in for a scorching battle! My name is Blaire — but you can call me 'Blaire the Magnificent'!”

The duo blankly stared at her like a couple of stunned Magikarp.

"That's … kinda cool," Fireball remarked, "and a little creepy, too."

Blaire spun around on her heel in such a way that her long coat flapped dramatically. “So! Let's get the formalities out of the way! Who is this know-nothing tourist standing before me? A Trainer who foolishly wishes to face Blaire the Magnificent with one Pokémon?”

“I'm Antoshi — a Trainer from Saffron City and, yes, I wish to challenge you for the Volcano Badge!”

“Antoshi?” Blaire wondered aloud with a scoff. “That's an odd name like I've never heard before!”

He smiled and shrugged. “I get that a lot.”

“As per Indigo League regulations,” she said, “I'm required to inform you that if you lose this match, you can't request a rematch for another two weeks!”

“I know that one by now,” Antoshi replied, briefly recalling some of their many losses at Gyms along the way.

“Fine then, Brainy!” Blaire replied, grinning confidently, her dark sunglasses shimmering. “As the official Gym Leader of the official Cinnabar Island Gym, I — Blaire the Magnificent — do officially accept your challenge!”

Blaire threw her first Ultra Ball up high with theatric flair. The ball opened in mid-air, a bright light bursting forth from it which took the shape of a large dragonlike Pokémon. As the light faded, an imposing Charizard landed on the ground with a heavy thud. It gave a roar, streams of flames erupting from its mouth.

Blaire caught the ball as it returned to her person almost like a sentient boomerang. She held it at her side, smirking confidently.

Antoshi's eyes lit up as he grinned eagerly. His blood raced with excitement while staring down his competition.

“Starting off strong,” he remarked to himself, quietly. Fireball and Antoshi nodded to each other. “All right, Fireball — go get 'em!

Chapter 2 »
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Winter can't come soon enough
This is quite the light-hearted start to, what I'm assuming anyway, will be a fairly light-hearted trainer story altogether. It's apparently self-insert, and at the moment I'm not sure how your "I can talk to Pokémon," shtick is going to factor into the plot. Or if it will factor in, for that matter. Of course, I could be way off and in for a complete surprise here.

It looks like you're taking care to draw strongly from the visuals of the actual games. Your descriptions of Saffron, Fuchsia, and Route 19 made me think of having them booted up on a copy of FRLG. And then there's Emily (a Tuber) and a legion of identical-looking sailors just like every dock area in a Pokémon game ever. Along those lines:

The gate connecting the route to Fuchsia City housed a Trainer checkpoint, allowing him to scan his Trainer Card with the authorities working inside. The procedure marked the time and date of his last known location. It was an invaluable tool in letting his parents keep track of him on his journey.
This is very minor, but I like that you incorporated the route transition areas from Gens I-VI and actually gave them a purpose; and one that makes logical sense. Trainer stories I've read so far just pretend they don't exist.

I don't really have much of an opinion on Antoshi the trainer at the moment. He seems like a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed player character-equivalent, though that can change. Fireball, on the other hand, is a total dork. I mean that in a good way. He's cute and I got a few chuckles out of his antics given he's a big ol' Typhlosion. I'm assuming he's not the only caught Pokémon, cause that'd be pretty overpowered for having made it through 6 gyms. Unless you're trying to emulate the "run through the whole game with your starter and HM slaves," thing. But I somehow doubt that.

On the more critical side of things, I recommend you use something other than an extra space between paragraphs to transition scenes. I was a bit confused when I got to those points, before I realized they were scene breaks. Also, with regards to the narration, there's a bit of exposition that's kind of shoved in my face. Namely, Antoshi's background and special ability. It might've been better and more entertaining to show that off with a scene or a flashback or something, rather than just telling me.

Also, there are spots where you have quite the affinity for putting commas in your sentences when sometimes you might just be better off using periods and splitting them into separate sentences. It's most noteworthy in the parts where you're describing different settings. For example:

Children played in the parks, tourists walked about to take in the sights, planes and blimps carrying various advertisements hovered in the blue sky above. Buses and taxis made their usual rounds, limousines chauffeured important persons, businesspeople chatted away on their cell phones.
I'm not a grammar expert, but these list-type sentences read like fragments to me. They could be parsed into individual sentences and have the verbs adjusted to make them read like proper sentences.

He grinned from ear to ear, his bright hair shimmering in the sun like a blond ray of sunshine
I get this is a title drop line, but it does come across as a bit forced. Especially since sun is used both before and in your simile there.

That's all I've got for the moment. But hopefully I'll pop up again in the future.


Gone. Not coming back.
This is an interesting one -- I'm going to differ from Ambyssin and say I really like the kind of gentle supernatural thing you have going on here, where there's this little touch of magic that settles calmly into the order of someone's life. I do like that in stories, and it's not necessarily something I come across as often as I'd like, particularly in fic; quite often if something weird happens, it's a Thing, whereas in this case it's just a thing, if that distinction makes any sense. I don't doubt that there'll be complications in future, but as a starting point this is a rather charming place to be.

That said, I feel like perhaps Fireball is a bit too human, in some ways. When he jumps back and cries 'Whoa!', that's a reaction that would fit a human but which seems out of place on a big old badger-weasel thing, as does flexing his arms in a display of power or wanting a funnel cake. Obviously there's a lot of room in this fandom for various interpretations of pokémon, to all degrees of anthropomorphism or none, but it does seem sort of off. Aside from the fact that he sometimes breathes fire and can't talk to anyone but Antoshi, Fireball is pretty much just a human, and given that the premise of this story is miraculous communication between the human and the inhuman it would be nice to see the inhuman be given a chance to shine. Which is not to say he can't be snarky and childish and all that, just that those things would seem more convincing if filtered through his distinctive perspective as a giant fiery mustelid.

Antoshi himself is engaging enough, although in his speech and thinking he comes across as being a bit older than twelve -- but then again, it's been a long time since I was twelve and maybe I'm just underestimating the mental and verbal complexity kids of that age can access. He's likeable enough, if maybe slightly bland in comparison to Fireball, whose personality seems much more exaggerated. I do like how he's completely fine with going by the name Fireball, though, which is presumably a name chosen for him by a child. That's quite good. Although thinking about it does of course raise questions about the ethics of pokémon training in your world: if pokémon are entirely human-level in their intelligence, what's the moral standing of the relationship between trainer and pokémon? Fireball doesn't seem to mind, which is convenient, and maybe it's just not an area you plan to investigate with this story, but either way I think it naturally comes to mind when you consider the situation you've set up here.

I like the sense of pace, too -- the busyness of it all, the sense of human activity and a world overlit by the bright light of summer. Sometimes your description can be a mite overdetailed at the expense of the language -- 'with a white stripe down the centre' in the middle of that sentence really slows that sentence down and makes it much less elegant, and unless the white stripe is important in some way I think it's the kind of detail that can be dispensed with -- but your scene-setting is lovely. Vivid impressions piling up to create a bigger image is a device I kind of have a weakness for, but even so I think you do it well.

The battle is pretty nice too: it's this interesting combination of gameiness and fictioniness, where you're representing the phenomenon of coming across an early-game trainer in the late game, when your pokémon can flatten their team even with moves they resist. And obviously that's a very game-y thing, but you tie it into experience in a way that stays just on the right side of fictionally plausible, albeit one that also seems somewhat cruel. Generally crushing small children's hopes with overwhelming force is not a great way to make friends, especially when you then follow it up with a weird kindness that sort of implies that you were justified in doing it because you taught the kid a lesson. But at the same time -- that is exactly what a twelve-year-old would do, I guess, be unthinkingly nasty but only in the attempt to be good, and for it to turn out all right in the end because the whole conversation is working on child-logic, where this sort of thing makes sense. Definitely more going on under the surface there than there at first appears to be.

A couple little minor things:

The Corsola nor the girl

I think you really need the 'neither' in there at the beginning to make that make adequate sense.

And is there a particular reason you're using bold for emphasis rather than italics? It's not really much except a tiny presentation thing, but like italics are conventional, and when bold is used in their place it looks a little bit off.

Anyway! All that said, I think this is really rather charming. I look forward to seeing what you're planning to do with this beginning; it's open enough that it could really go anywhere, from supernatural slice-of-life to world-threatening shenanigans, honestly, and that's always a cool place to start off from.


Imagination Station
Chapter 2

Fireball stepped up, locking eyes with Blaire's Charizard. With a roar of his own, the upper part of his back ignited. His body radiated a shimmer of heat — a threat display. He was fully focused and ready for a serious battle.

‘A fellow Fire-type, eh?’ Blaire thought with a smile.

There were a few moments of tense quiet between the two sides as they stared each other down, analyzing their current situations. Blaire may have claimed to be new to her role, but she was still a Gym Leader nonetheless. With two badges left and no time to spare before the start of the Indigo League Tournament, there was no room for error in this battle.

Charizard snorted, looking down at Fireball with an upturned snout as though it were above such a challenge. Fireball continued to stare down his opponent, his intense gaze unwavering.

Blaire opted to make the opening move with a dramatic point toward the enemy. “Charizard, use Slash!” Her Pokémon grunted in response, using its wings to soar toward its opponent at ground level.

“All right, Fireball,” Antoshi said, “let's turn up the heat! Use Eruption!”

Fireball dropped down on all fours and sprinted at Charizard.

‘A Fire-type attack?’ Blaire thought as she furrowed her brow. ‘Is he not as smart as I expected? No, … he's using it now while his Typhlosion is still fresh, when it'll do more damage.’

As Fireball neared close, Charizard's sharp claws glowed with a magical energy indicative of various Pokémon moves. Charizard swiped hard at him but missed when Fireball ducked and tackled into Charizard's lower body. He struck with such force that he launched the large, dragonesque Pokémon airborne. With Charizard directly above him, Fireball gave a mighty roar, the flames on his back erupting into a massive pillar of flames that completely engulfed his opponent.

Charizard cried out in pain while Blaire looked on bitterly, unable to help. When the eruption of fire dissipated, Fireball darted out of the way. Charizard crashed back down to the ground. It groaned as it weakly lifted itself back up by its arms.

“Charizard, you okay?” she asked.

Her Pokémon grunted, and gave her a nod.

“Don't let up, Fireball!” Antoshi said to his friend, with a confident smirk. “You know what time it is!”

Fireball nodded in response. The Typhlosion curled himself up in a large ball and revved in place like a spinning tire.

Blaire looked on with a curious gaze. The flames on his upper back spread all the way around him until he was enveloped in a fireball, just like his namesake.

“This is our signature attack!” Antoshi exclaimed. “A special Rollout I like to call 'Rolling Fireball'!”

Fireball's spinning body barreled toward Charizard like a homing missile. The Typhlosion's incredible speed left Blaire stunned and unable to react in time. Charizard was violently thrown to the side from a direct blow of Fireball's blazing Rollout attack. The reptilian beast tumbled to a stop, groaning and growling while picking itself up again.

The attack was flashy and intimidating, but their distinctive Rollout did not change its Rock typing. It was usually not their best — or preferred — choice of attack. However, its typing did make it very useful against anything weak to Rock, particularly a Fire- and Flying-type like Charizard.

Fireball spun around for the next phase of Rollout. His speed and power increased as he aimed for Charizard again.

“He's coming back around!” Blaire said to her Pokémon. “Charizard, use Fly! Now!

With a grunt of acknowledgment, Charizard flapped its large wings and took to the air just in time to narrowly avoid the speeding Typhlosion. The miss caused Fireball to hop out of his Rollout, sliding to a halt a short distance in front of Antoshi. They both focused their attention upon the airborne Charizard.

“Now, Charizard, strike!”

Charizard roared, diving headlong at Fireball with incredible speed.

“Guard!” Antoshi instructed his friend.

Fireball clenched his jaw and crossed his short arms over his chest to brace from the hard impact of Charizard smashing into him. He grunted as he slid backwards. Antoshi put his hands out to catch his friend and stop his momentum.

“You all right?” Antoshi asked as they looked at each other. Fireball grinned and gave him a thumbs up.

Charizard came in for a landing on its side of the stadium floor once again.

“That's impressive!” Blaire said. “From what I've learned, Typhlosions are supposed to incinerate anything that gets near it when it's all worked up like yours is. Just like how trusted humans don't get burned by Rapidash flames, you must have have one heck of a bond with your Pokémon there.”

“Fireball's not just a Pokémon,” Antoshi replied, looking up at his friend with a proud smile, “he's my best friend.” Fireball grinned, nodding in agreement.

Despite scoring a hit, the previous attacks had took their toll on Charizard. It panted heavily, visibly more worn down and battle-scarred than its opponent.

‘Not just a great bond,’ Blaire thought, glancing at her Charizard, ‘but that's a strong Typhlosion, too.’ With her Pokémon on its last legs, Blaire sighed in frustration. ‘One last play,’ she thought. ‘They're not going to see this one coming.’

“Charizard,” she said, “Smokescreen!”

Charizard grunted, using its wings to spin around while exhaling a large, rolling plume of black smoke all around to conceal its position.

Antoshi narrowed his eyes. ‘Why Smokescreen?’ he thought. ‘She doesn't strike me as the type of Trainer to waste time stalling. She almost certainly has a plan in motion, that much I'm sure of. We need to act now and get rid of that smoke before she has time to set anything else up.’

“Use Rolling Fireball!” he said.

Fireball curled up again, revving up to ignite himself into another fireball before charging into the plume. The flames covering his body instantly ignited the dark smoke, creating a brief cloud of fire. Inside the fiery veil, Fireball's attack just missed Charizard. Fireball spun around and hopped out of his Rollout, a short distance from Antoshi once again.

“Now, Charizard, Hyper Beam!” she declared.

Antoshi's eyes widened. With no other Pokémon to fall back on, an attack like Hyper Beam was going to be very costly for them. Charizard took aim at Fireball, charging a bright white sphere of energy in its gaping maw. With a roar, it fired its attack in the form of a long, blinding beam.

Time seemed to stop for the duo as the glaring beam of light soared past them both, coming with inches of hitting either of them. Antoshi gasped in shock once the blast impacted the ground a short distance behind him, creating a moderate explosion that shook the ground.

Blaire was livid with their stroke of luck. “It missed?!” she shouted.

Antoshi closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. Getting hit with Pokémon attacks was always an occupational hazard for a Trainer, and Charizard's Hyper Beam was a particularly powerful one. Antoshi was very thankful it missed him. He quickly shook off his nerves to take advantage of their good fortune.

“All right, Fireball — finish it!” Antoshi said.

Fireball hopped back into his fiery Rollout attack, speeding toward Charizard one last time. There was nothing left for Blaire to do. Charizard was momentarily exhausted from the amount of energy used for Hyper Beam. She closed her eyes before the final impact of Fireball's attack connected with her Pokémon. The attack sent Charizard airborne a short distance before landing hard on its back.

With a weak groan, Charizard finally passed out.

“Yes!” Antoshi whispered with a fist pump. Fireball headed back to his side of the field, standing on his hind feet to face his partner. Both of them grinned in delight. They were feeling fired up, ready for whatever she sent out next.

Blaire grumbled angrily as she held out Charizard's Ultra Ball, recalling the fainted Pokémon into its confines via a crimson-colored beam of light. She stared at the ball for a moment from behind her dark sunglasses.

‘Darn it!’ she thought. ‘Charizard was my strongest Pokémon! I didn't think I'd need any more of my team to send this … 'Antush', or whatever his name is, packing. I'm not going to let this tourist beat me with just one Pokémon — let alone a Fire-type! That's my specialty!’

“Don't get too carried away just because you knocked out just one of my Pokémon!” she said. “I have four! There's no way you're going to get through them all, Brainy!”

Antoshi smirked. “Are you gonna send out your next Pokémon or what?” he confidently replied.

Blaire humphed in defiance. She switched out Charizard's Ultra Ball for a Great Ball. “I sure am — and this one's a doozy! Go, Camerupt!” From the thrown ball came a stubby, angry red camel with two small volcano tops on its back. It gave a deep shout, ready for battle. “Try knocking this big boy out with your fancy little move, Brainy!”

“Fireball, Defense Curl!” Antoshi said.

Fireball curled up into a ball once again, staying in place this time. A bubble-like shield temporarily appeared around his body.

Blaire laughed haughtily. “Oh-ho-ho! That's not gonna save you! Camerupt, Earthquake!”

“Earthquake?” Antoshi remarked in surprise. “Brace yourself, Fireball!”

"I'm on it!" Fireball replied, muffled by his own fur.

Camerupt roared, lifting its forelegs up before smashing into the ground with tremendous force. The ground around Fireball rattled and shook hard until violently shattering around him. Fireball shouted as his balled up body bounced around hard on the jagged, broken, trembling earth. Antoshi steadied himself from the smaller tremors beneath him as well.

“Fireball, you all right?” Antoshi asked as the attack died down.

"Well, … I'm feeling some pain in my back here," Fireball said, still muffled from being in his defensive stance, "but I'm still good to go."

Antoshi smiled proudly. “Our turn, Fireball! Show that Camerupt how we roll! Defense Rollout!”

Defense Rollout?” Blaire mused.

‘Wait a minute, … I remember this combination!’ she thought, gasping in surprise. ‘Defense Curl, then Rollout. Oh, great, this kid actually is some know-it-all nerd!’

Blaire watched in horror as Fireball's flaming body sped toward her helpless Pokémon. “Camerupt, get out of the way!”

Camerupt was far too slow to evade. The impact sent it soaring a short distance before crashing hard like Charizard before it. Camerupt groaned weakly, unable to get back up and collapsed — also like Charizard.

Blaire's eyes nearly popped out from her sunglasses. “What?!” Blaire roared in disbelief. Her Camerupt was already downed. “No way!”

“All right!” Antoshi cheered as Fireball returned to their side of the field. “Awesome job, Fireball!” Fireball grinned once again, feeling very confident.

Blaire gnashed her teeth together. ‘How can this kid's Typhlosion be this strong?! I know Defense Curl doubles the power of Rollout. Even still, he knocked out my Camerupt in just one hit!’

She shrieked and fumed in rage, stomping a foot in frustration before recalling her Pokémon. “Camerupt, return!” She shrunk the Great Ball down to its minimal size, swapping it out with a Friend Ball that was attached to her belt. She expanded the ball, throwing it to the field with less flair and more purpose.

Go, Rapidash!” she exclaimed. The light formed and faded to reveal a large unicorn with a flaming mane, back, tail and fetlocks. “Rapidash, Agility!” The equine Pokémon rapidly trotted in place, its body briefly glowing white. “Now you're in trouble!” she confidently proclaimed.

“Rollout, again!” Antoshi said.

Fireball curled into his attack, revving in place. His body burned brightly as he sped toward Rapidash.

“Rapidash, move!” she commanded. With its Agility, Rapidash had become much faster and more agile than Fireball could manage. The Typhlosion missed his target by a wide margin. “Fire Spin, Rapidash! Lock it down!”

Once Fireball had returned to his side of the field, Rapidash took a deep breath and, with a loud cry, exhaled a vortex of fire that encircled him. Antoshi covered his eyes and stepped back from the flames that burned dangerously close to him. He was unable to maintain visual contact with his friend.

“Fireball! Are you all right?”

"The fire feels kind of nice," Fireball replied, "but I can't move!"

Antoshi clicked his tongue. Fireball was going to be trapped in the vortex until there was no more fuel to churn it. The attack momentarily constricted around Fireball. He shouted as the fire scorched him.

"Okay, it feels a lot less nice now!" Fireball said.

Blaire grinned confidently. “Now, Rapidash — use Bounce!”

Rapidash cried out in acknowledgment. It began to hop up and down, gaining more and more height with each jump until it soared high into the air.

“Fireball, guard!”

Fireball clenched his teeth, crossing his small forearms over his tucked head as best he could. He shouted loudly as the full weight of Rapidash's body landed on him and immediately launched off like a springboard. Fireball fell to the ground with a groan, weakly getting back up onto his feet. He shouted again as the fiery vortex briefly closed in on him.

Blaire laughed haughtily as Rapidash gracefully landed in front of her. “Can't do anything when your Typhlosion can't zip around, huh?!”

Antoshi clenched his fists. ‘We can't afford a loss here,’ he thought. ‘The Indigo League tournament starts in less than two weeks. Having to wait two weeks for our seventh badge means we won't make it there in time.’

“Fireball, try using Rollout to break out of the Fire Spin!”

Fireball immediately curled up and shot into the churning wall of flames. The flames had an unnatural elastic property about them, stretching out like a rubber band. It brought Fireball's momentum to a slow halt until it snapped him back inside the circular vortex.

Blaire laughed again. “Don't worry — I'll put your Typhlosion out of its misery! Rapidash, use Horn Drill!”

Antoshi's eyes went wide with horror. While inaccurate, the move was typically an instant knockout. Rapidash cried out, the horn on its head glowing white and appearing to spin.

“Fireball, keep moving as much as you can!”

"Got it!" Fireball replied. He heaved a sigh before bouncing back and forth on his hind legs like a boxer would. "Come on! Try and hit me!"

The veil of fire masked Rapidash's approach. Fireball gasped as it, and its glowing horn, suddenly burst through the fire. Fireball jumped to the side, stretching his body out to just barely avoid the instant knockout technique. Having missed, Rapidash immediately retreated back to its side of the field.

Blaire remained confident, despite the attack missing. She was able to keep trying, so long as the flames kept Fireball trapped. However, Fire Spin had a fickle mind of its own. It decided when it would peter out. Suddenly, the vortex of fire burst and dissipated.

Both Trainers and Fireball were momentarily stunned.

“No, no, no!” Blaire exclaimed in a panic.

“Now, Fireball!” Antoshi said. “Rolling Fireball!

Blaire grinned. “You forgot my Rapidash is too fast for your Typhlosion to hit, Brainy! Rapidash, get moving!”

“Swerve to the left!” Antoshi instructed.

As Fireball did so, he scored a direct hit on the speeding Rapidash. The high-speed collision sent it flying even further than Blaire's previous two Pokémon. It gave a pained shout upon landing violently, rendered unable to continue after it fell unconscious.

Blaire was left shocked. “But— … but how?! How did you know Rapidash would move that way?”

“I guessed,” Antoshi replied with a shrug. “Well, it was more of an educated guess. Your Rapidash ran to our left the first time it dodged the attack, so I figured it would do it again.”

Blaire remained silent for a moment before the corner of her mouth curled into a slight smirk.

“Not bad, kid,” she remarked as she recalled her Rapidash. “Not bad.”

She gasped when she looked at the final ball she had — a Poké Ball.

‘Oh, crap,’ she thought. ‘I only recently got this Pokémon from a trade. It's not nearly as strong as the others! There's no way it's going to last more than a minute if it gets hit by Rollout.’ She looked at the opposing duo once more. ‘Welp, no other choice now but to go all-in. If I lose, I'm going down in a blaze of glory!’

“Go!” she exclaimed, throwing the ball high into the air. “Talonflame!”

From the open ball came a falcon with orange flame patterns on its feathers, accented with gray, black and yellow. It kept itself airborne, locking eyes with its opponent.

Antoshi and Fireball both gasped in a mix of surprise and awe.

‘A Kalos Pokémon?’ Antoshi thought. ‘Pokémon from Kalos are so rare in Kanto. An exotic Pokémon like that as her final one has to be her most powerful.’ Antoshi's excitement was at its peak, his eyes bright, unable to keep from grinning.

“Talonflame!” Blaire said. “Use Attract!”

“What?!” Antoshi exclaimed in disbelief.

Talonflame kept itself airborne with one wing, using the other wing to mask its beak while blinking alluringly at Fireball.

"Wow!" Fireball said, grinning and blushing, becoming infatuated with the avian Pokémon. "So … pretty!"

Antoshi briefly smacked his hand over his face in disbelief.

“Fireball, use Rolling Fireball!

"Wow…" Fireball muttered, grinning and mindlessly swaying back and forth. "So pretty…"

Antoshi groaned, burying his face in his hands. ‘Please don't tell me our dreams are dashed because of Attract…’

Blaire laughed in amusement. “Love conquers all, kid! Talonflame, use Acrobatics!”

Talonflame screeched in response, flying high into the air before coming down and striking Fireball with her talons several times as she dashed from one side of the field to the other.

Fireball groaned, weakly falling to a knee. "So … pretty," he continued to mutter.

“Come on, Fireball! Snap out of it! We can't lose like this!”

"Can't lose…" Fireball said. "Can't lose to … bird. Very pretty, lovely bird. Can't … lose." Fireball clenched his teeth as he rose to his hind feet. His senses were still dazed from the effect of Attract.

“Are you with me, Fireball?” Antoshi asked with concern in his eyes. “This means everything to both of us. You have to hold it together!”

Fireball groaned again, shaking his head. He turned to Antoshi, giving him a groggy grin and a thumbs up. "I think … I'm good to go."

Antoshi smiled proudly at him and nodded.

“Now we end this!” Blaire loudly declared. “Talonflame, use Brave Bird!”

Talonflame screeched, tucking its wings, falling to a low altitude. It shot headlong at Fireball with blinding speed — enough to cause a visible shock wave.

‘Whoa, that Pokémon's fast!’ Antoshi thought. “Fireball! One more Rollout, buddy! Let's bring it home!”

"All right!" Fireball replied, confidently, curling up and igniting himself one more time. Fireball blasted toward the speeding Talonflame, turning their battle into an impromptu joust.

Both Trainers held their breath in the brief moment just before impact. Talonflame crashed into him and was immediately flung away by the sheer force. Fireball's powerful Rollout attack ended up unwavering. With a pained screech, the bird Pokémon spiraled wildly through the air before crashing hard and sliding to a stop.

With Talonflame unconscious, the battle was over.

Noo~!!” Blaire yelled, infuriated.

Antoshi's face lit up with glee. “Yes!” he shouted. “We did it!”

Fireball rolled his way back to him, extinguishing the flames on his back. Fireball got back to his hind feet with a pained grunt. He shared a high-five with Antoshi.

“No, no, no, no!!” she whined, repeatedly stamping a foot on the ground. “How could I have lost when you only have one Pokémon?!”

Antoshi and Fireball were both elated as they walked over to Blaire. “I told you before we battled,” Antoshi replied. “Fireball and I have a ton of experience — and this is the most important thing to us.” Fireball nodded in agreement.

Blaire sighed, closing her eyes for a moment to cool off. She held her Poké Ball up to recall Talonflame before looking back at the duo with a smirk.

“I will admit, your decision to raise one Pokémon is admirable — and that's a really strong Typhlosion you have because of it. Very few Trainers are willing to stick with just one, but I definitely witnessed just how powerful the bond between a Trainer and a single Pokémon can be. After all, you are putting all of the training and experience of six Pokémon into one! Still, the level of care and dedication you've shown is what being a Pokémon Trainer is all about. You're an interesting one, … er, what was your name again?”

“Antoshi,” he replied, mirthfully.

“Antoshi, right. Congrats,” she said, as she casually tossed him a Volcano Badge, “you just got your seventh badge, kiddo.”

The duo briefly stared at the shiny, red badge cupped in Antoshi's hands. A flood of emotion came over them both, welling up with tears. The badge was another symbol of their hard work and the year they spent committing to this journey. Antoshi looked over at his friend.

“Lucky number seven,” he said, reiterating his remark from before. Fireball responded with an enthused nod.

Blaire smirked at the happy pair, placing a hand on her hip. “You definitely earned it.”

“Thanks,” Antoshi replied. He took out his wallet and flipped open a side flap to reveal six, shining, well-kept badges pinned to it. With a relieved sigh, he proudly added the Volcano Badge to their collection.

“By the way,” Antoshi said, as he put his wallet away, “is your name really Blaire?”

The girl stifled a chuckle. “Depends. Is your name really Antoshi?” she joked. “All right, I'll be honest. Blaire's a nickname I came up with. My real name is Leslie.”

“Why not stick with your real name?” he asked, playfully. “That's what I do.”

Blaire gasped, pretending to be offended. “And miss out on the opportunity to cosplay as the greatest Gym Leader of all time? No way!” She took Blaine's distinct stance with her arms folded across her chest. “Now, you two get out of here before I throw you out.”

“Hope to see you again someday,” Antoshi said with a grin. He headed off, motioning for Fireball to join him.

“So long, brainy kid with the weird name,” she replied. She smirked proudly as she watched the two depart.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

It was dusk by the time they exited the Gym. The sun was setting, bringing an end to another day. Both of them stretched their arms high before sighing in relief.

"I sure am beat," Fireball said, rubbing his back, "and really hungry."

“Same here,” Antoshi replied with a nod as they set off. “Let's get back to the Pokémon Center and get you healed up. Then we can see how much food is left from dinnertime.”

"You know," Fireball said, "we should really have a new meal between lunch and dinner. We'll call it 'dunch'!"

“You are not making that a new word,” Antoshi firmly objected.

"How about 'linner,' then?"

“Absolutely not.”

"Hey, maybe we'll see that cute girl again," Fireball teased.

“I'm ignoring you now, Fireball.”

Fireball quietly chortled in response.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Back at the Pokémon Center, the duo were ready for some much needed food and rest. They'd been on their feet all day and hadn't eaten since lunch. Antoshi and Fireball sat together in the Center's cafeteria amid a smattering of other Trainers and their Pokémon. They joked and laughed together, in high spirits after reaching another milestone in their journey. Fireball had put away a half-dozen trays of food.

They spent a little more time conversing before deciding it was time to retire for the night. They headed back to their room to get settled in.

The room had its own bathroom, allowing Antoshi to get washed up and brush his teeth. He also took the opportunity to fill a canteen he kept in his backpack with water from the sink. The beds in the Pokémon Centers were only big enough to comfortably fit one person. Fireball didn't mind, however. He settled in on his preferred sleeping place: the floor.

Antoshi slipped under the covers of the twin size mattress. He wore his usual sleeping attire of a white undershirt and matching boxers. After turning off the nightstand lamp, Antoshi and Fireball lay awake for a bit, staring at the ceiling in thought.

“We're in the home stretch now, buddy,” Antoshi quietly remarked.

"We sure are! We're gonna win it all, and win it big!" Fireball replied, beaming with excitement. "I can't wait to see how big the tournament stage is at the Indigo Plateau. Are you excited, too?"

“It's all I can think about lately. I'm trying to keep my excitement on the inside, otherwise I'll never get any sleep until then.” Antoshi pulled the covers up tighter and closed his eyes.

"Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up. "Have you given any more thought about why you're the only one that can hear me speak?"

Antoshi grinned in amusement. “Let's continue this conversation when we're not so tired. Get some sleep, Fireball. I hope you dream about standing on the Champion's platform with me.”

Fireball chuckled. "I'm ready for it. 'Night, Antoshi."

The two sighed in contentment before letting their tired minds doze off to sleep.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

That night, Antoshi had a dream. It was a very clear, and very strange, dream. He found himself standing in the middle of a large public park. The setting was completely new to him. It was late evening. He was surrounded by unfamiliar faces; children and their Pokémon playing and laughing while parents watched and chatted amongst themselves. It was a picturesque evening in a place that seemed so peaceful and carefree.

His hands were stuffed in his pockets, his shoulders slumped over. His legs moved of their own accord, the rhythmic sound of grass crumpling under his shoes, leading him to the edge of the park and across the street where a man and woman were waiting. They appeared to be angry with him.

The image blurred and faded. Afterward, he lay awake in a strange bed, in a bedroom he'd never seen before. He carried feelings of anger and sadness in his heart for reasons unknown. From his mouth, a voice that sounded like his mumbled something unintelligible. He sighed heavily and rolled onto his side to get some sleep. Before he could, another voice emanated from behind him.

“Wake up,” the voice whispered to him, but he did not respond. “Wake up!” the whispering voice became louder, echoing in his head. He quickly rolled onto his other side, opening his eyes to see nothing but darkness clouding his vision. The darkness did not dissipate, but the voice got much louder.

"Wake up!" a familiar, jovial voice rang out. With a startled gasp, Antoshi leapt awake. He was in his bed in the Pokémon Center. "Whoa," Fireball remarked, standing beside him. "Sorry about surprising you like that. You okay?"

Antoshi sighed. The early dawn sun peered through the cracks in the room's horizontal blinds.

“Yeah…” Antoshi responded, his voice groggy. “What time is it?”

"Six o'clock!" Fireball said, happily. "Our usual wake-up time. Hope you're ready for some breakfast, because I sure am."

Antoshi yawned and stretched his arms high. “I will be soon. Thanks for waking me, though. I feel like I would've slept in super late. … I was having the weirdest dream.”

"Was it one of those dreams?" Fireball asked, suggestively.

Antoshi rolled his eyes. “No, it wasn't that kind of dream,” the boy replied, while pulling the bed covers away. “Well, let's get ready to go, so we can keep this victory train rolling toward our last badge. How's that sound?”

"Next stop: the Championship!" Fireball declared.

Antoshi laughed as he hopped out of bed to do some rhythmic morning stretches. Even though Fireball's limbs weren't as long, he joined in on emulating the stretches, much to Antoshi's amusement.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

With his backpack on the bed, Antoshi finished putting away his clothes from the previous day. He wore a colorful tank top, white shorts and the same lei the hula girl had given him.

"You're gonna keep wearing that flower necklace?" Fireball asked, curiously, while sitting on the bed. "Didn't Blaire make fun of you for it?"

“I don't mind. If I'm gonna be a tourist, I might as well look like one for the short time we're here.”

"Well, with that shirt on you look like the king of tourists!"

Antoshi laughed as he slipped his shoes on.

“I guess that means it's perfect,” the boy replied, grinning. “Come on, let's grab some breakfast and head out.”

"Finally, food!" Fireball exclaimed, jumping up to his hind feet.

Antoshi pocketed his wallet as well as the room's key card and slung his backpack over his shoulders. He and Fireball left for the cafeteria. They filled up on all the pastries and fruit that they could before heading back into the main area of the Center. They were fueled up and ready for the next leg of their quest.

“Thank you, Nurse Joy,” Antoshi politely said, handing her the room key card, “as well as everyone that works so hard here.”

“Thank you as well, Trainer,” she happily replied.

“Could I ask you a question?”

“Of course!”

“What's the best way for me to get to Pallet Town from here?”

“Well, you're in luck,” she replied. She reached under the counter, bringing out a small digital map of the island on a portable device. “Since Cinnabar Island is such a popular tourist destination, a ferry company regularly carries people between here and Pallet Town.” She pointed to the map's northwest corner of the island. “The ferry leaves from the Northwest Marina every day promptly at noon.”

“Plenty of time to do that sightseeing we wanted,” Antoshi remarked to Fireball, who nodded in excitement. “Thank you again, Nurse Joy.”

“No problem! We hope to see you again!” she said, waving to them.

“C'mon, buddy,” Antoshi said, before the duo eagerly left together.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Having a few hours to kill, the two best friends ventured out on their own personal sightseeing tour. It was a crystal clear morning on the island, with just a slight breeze carrying the salty sea air. The rising morning sun sparkled through waving palm fronds over their heads. A small flock of Butterfree fluttered by, around a congregation of Metapod on some nearby palm trees.

The tropical resort was warm and relaxing. It had a whole new shimmer to it in the early hours of the day. It was also more peaceful with far less people around than in the daytime hours. There were less skyscrapers in the direction they were heading, giving them a better view of the island's natural beauty.

Antoshi deeply inhaled the invigorating breeze that carried the end of winter's cold. He sighed cheerfully. It was his favorite time of the year, even though his birthday was in the summertime. The harsh cold and snow had passed, leaving the air cool enough to keep the sky clear and sunny most of the time.

The way Antoshi walked, so poised and confident, rubbed off on Fireball. He had always viewed Antoshi as a natural-born leader, ready to lead them marching to their next adventure. He always took them down the right path, and never let Fireball down. Much of his own inner strength was derived from the young Trainer's adamant confidence, resolve, and boundless excitement.

A handful of passersby stared and chuckled at Antoshi's choice of attire, which in turn caused the duo to laugh amongst themselves, having fully expected such a reaction.

The two stopped by a few shave ice carts along the way. They tried the unique, different flavors that varied between each cart's selection. Antoshi sipped his out of its paper cup while Fireball eagerly downed his in one gulp. He was very content about it, as brain freeze didn't affect him.

Multitudes of shops, restaurants and malls lined the streets. There were large laboratories in the distance that were closed off to the public. Thoroughfares to them were for personnel only.

Antoshi swallowed nervously as they passed by the same street across from the mailbox he'd destroyed. There was yellow caution tape wrapped around the small hole in the pavement left by him. He sighed, gazing down at his clenched fist. His powers had never gotten away from him like that before. It was a sure sign to him that he needed to keep it in check, otherwise people could get hurt next time.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi kept track of the time by asking people on the street and checking various town clocks along the way.

"Maybe it's time for you to get a watch," Fireball joked.

“We've done just fine this long without one,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “C'mon, we've got about an hour to get over to that marina before the ferry leaves without us.”

"B-b-but what about lunch?!" Fireball asked in a panic.

Antoshi hummed thoughtfully and looked around. He spotted a nearby cafe and pointed to it. “We can get some food to go from there, but let's be quick, okay?”

"Roger that!" Fireball eagerly replied.

The two shuffled safely across the street and entered the cafe. Just a handful of customers and their Pokémon sat inside as well as at tables just outside the establishment. The air smelled of coffee and freshly baked pastries. It was a scent powerful enough to make Fireball's bottomless belly rumble.

Antoshi ordered a couple of sandwiches from behind a glass display. The proprietor bagged the food, Antoshi paid him, and the two exited with their lunch in hand. Outside, Fireball eagerly held his hands out.

“Ah-ah,” Antoshi chided him, slipping his backpack off and placing it on an empty table. He stored their food away. “We're eating these after we get on the ferry.”

"Well, what if … we went back in and got a couple extra sandwiches for the road?"

“Come on, Fireball,” Antoshi replied, grinning, cinching his backpack over his shoulders. “The sooner we get to that ferry, the sooner we eat.”

Fireball gasped. "Then let's hurry up!" he exclaimed, eagerly racing toward their destination.

Antoshi laughed as he jogged behind his quick-moving friend. “Hey, wait up!”

As they made haste toward the marina, a young adult man took interest in the pair. Leaning against the maw of a nearby alleyway, he calmly watched them shuffle on by. He spotted Antoshi's lei and outfit, indicative of a clueless tourist. He raised and eyebrow and smirked mischievously. He waited until they were a short distance away before casually stuffing his hands in the pockets of his leather aviator jacket and tailing them.

Chapter 3 »
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Winter can't come soon enough
So, to start off here I'm gonna bandwagon on Cutlerine's "Fireball may be a bit too humanistic," tidbit (please don't kill me, Cutlerine). I know animals can get seasick (there's even a motion sickness drug approved for dogs) but Fireball's reaction is far more like what a human would do. A more believable scenario for a Pokémon might be his annoyance/discomfort at being on a boat surrounded by water, being fire-type and all that. But for all I know, this is intentional to make Fireball seem super domesticated.

Moving on, we have the revelation that Antoshi is in fact attempting to solo the league with Fireball. I'm not sure what to make of it because there are so many different directions that could go in. The narration's constantly pointing out how close they are, so I'm expecting something to go horribly wrong for them.

Anyway, Cinnabar! I get a strong Hawaiian vibe from it, which is funny because Alola's a thing. But I think it's your reference to the volcano and how the island expanded from its eruption that really hammers that in for me. But we quickly head to the gym. It's pretty much Blaine's gym from the games, and I did get a laugh out of the questions we saw, especially the second one. And Blair even lampshades our tendency to battle the trainers in the gym anyway for the EXP. Very humorous. As for Blair herself, she's very... quirky. If you were going for someone who's pretty much the opposite of Blaine, I think you got it right.

Overall, I'm not sure what the exact plan is for Antoshi and Fireball. I think the only reason I'm expecting things to go wrong is that all the trainer fics I've read here so far are super dark and it's messing with my brain. It seems like there's a fair bit of "super power of friendship" at work here, but I'm definitely looking forward to the starter showdown. I'm curious how (or if) Fireball will handle a Charizard.


This has been a really light-hearted read so far. I think for most of it it's well written and I get the impression that Antoshi is brave, but also quite wreckless.


Imagination Station
Chapter 3

The duo reached the marina before long. By noon, activity on the island had picked up. A small group of people waited by the largest dock near the marina's entrance.

“Excuse me,” Antoshi spoke up, grabbing the attention of a tall, elderly gentleman in a formal suit. “Is this the waiting area for the ferry to Pallet Town?”

“It sure is!” the man replied, cheerfully.

“Thank you. I just want to make sure we're in the right place. We … have gotten on the wrong transportation before.”

“Glad to help! Say, that's a very nice-looking Typhlosion you have there!”

“This is my best friend, Fireball,” he replied with a proud smile.

The gentleman extended a hand. “It's wonderful to meet you, Fireball!” Fireball grinned while shaking the man's hand. The gentleman tipped his bowler hat at the two. “Well, I hope the two of you have a great time in Pallet Town.”

“Thanks again,” Antoshi said, before the gentleman walked away.

Fireball started bouncing up and down in anticipation. "So, um, what's in those sandwiches anyway?"

“I'm not su~re,” Antoshi replied, playfully. “I think it's a surprise.

Fireball was shocked. "Surprise sandwiches!?" He turned around to face the water. "Where is that ferry?!"

The shady young man following them appeared from the crowd. As he approached, his eyes were locked solely on Antoshi. He noticed the indent of Antoshi's wallet in his back pocket. His eyes lit up, slowly and casually strolling up behind him. He reached down, his fingers just slipping within Antoshi's pocket.

Suddenly, a large man hastily bumped into Antoshi, causing him to stumble backward into the would-be thief.

“Sorry!” the careless man exclaimed before shuffling off.

Antoshi chuckled and turned to the thief. “Sorry about that.”

“Hey, it's no problem!” the young man replied with a nervous, boisterous laugh.

Antoshi turned his attention back to the marina. The thief bitterly grumbled at the convenient mishap.

"Oh, oh! There it is!" Fireball exclaimed, hopping into the air and waving the ferry over.

The ferry blew its horn. At the same time, the thief tried to pick Antoshi's pocket again. He fumbled and pulled too hard on the seam, grabbing the boy's attention. The thief quickly pretended to look around mindlessly, whistling to himself.

Antoshi idly reached back to pull his wallet out. “I guess I should get ready to pay the fare as fast as possible,” he mused, smiling as he watched Fireball continue to jump in excitement.

The thief behind them seethed. Something as simple as picking some kid's pocket shouldn't have been so challenging. ‘Oh, come on!’ he thought. He bit his thumbnail, looking back at the city. He had a look on his face as though he'd remembered something important.

Heaving a sigh, he remained where he stood. ‘A kid with a rare Pokémon like a Typhlosion has to have a jackpot of a wallet.’ He slid his hands into his pockets, keeping his cool, while waiting for the ferry just like everyone else.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

People soon began to board the ferry one by one. Each passenger paid the attending deckhand a small fare to board. Fireball merrily skipped across the gangplank, followed by Antoshi, who paid for them both. The thief calmly slipped past without paying while the deckhand was distracted by a woman asking a question.

Antoshi and Fireball took a seat next to each other on one of the bolted down wooden benches set in rows. The boy took his backpack off, setting it beside them. The thief sat out of their eyesight. He watched them for a moment before reclining across an entire bench. An older woman looking for a seat walked by and scoffed at his manners.

Antoshi unwrapped one of the sandwiches. Fireball went to take it from him. “Now remember,” Antoshi said, momentarily keeping the food just out of Fireball's reach, “we each get one sandwich, okay? Try not to swallow it all in a single gulp.”

Fireball nodded in excitement. Antoshi handed him his food with a smile. The Typhlosion went to take a big bite, but suddenly stopped. "Wait, … what if I get seasick again?"

“This ferry's way bigger than the boat from yesterday — and it's nowhere near as fast. I'm sure it'll be a nice, smooth ride the whole way.”

"Well, in that case, …" he trailed off before taking a bite of his sandwich. Fireball made an endless array of contented noises as he chewed his food. Antoshi calmly ate along with him. Both of them enjoyed their meal while the ferry set sail onto Route 21.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The slower ferry ride expectedly took a bit longer than their previous seafaring trek did. After eating, Antoshi happily took the opportunity to soak up as much of their surroundings as possible. He and Fireball made their way out onto the starboard deck where they leaned against the metal railing to enjoy the view. Several other people were doing the same further down the ship on either side of them.

"It's a really big world out there, huh?" Fireball asked.

They gazed at Kanto's terrain in the far distance. Memories of previous adventures came flooding back to them.

“Sure is,” Antoshi remarked with a thoughtful smile. “I hope every minute of it has been just as amazing for you as it's been for me.”

"Of course! Every minute of every day is great with my best buddy around." They shared a brief chuckle, gazing to the distance in silence for a moment. "Say, … have you thought about what we'll do after this is over? Y'know, if we … don't make it to the championship? Where do we go from there?"

“One step at a time, remember? We haven't even gotten our eighth badge yet!”

"That's true. … Guess I'm just getting excited now that we're so close to the end."

“Oh, I definitely am, too. I keep worrying that something is going to delay us from making it to the tournament. We just have to keep our cool and go at our own pace like we always do.”

"But, you've always been better at keeping cool than me! I'm ready to sprint as fast as I can to that eighth badge!"

“We'll definitely be moving a lot faster now, don't worry. We don't have much time left.”

The thief made his way onto the deck with Antoshi and Fireball. He made sure no one was watching him before silently creeping up behind them. He was once again just a literal fingertip away from his goal of taking the boy's wallet when the duo suddenly turned around.

“Come on,” Antoshi said to Fireball, “let's go back inside and sit down so you can relax.”

They immediately froze in place upon seeing the thief leaning over in front of them. He panicked and swiftly fell over with a grunt.

“Oh, jeez!” the thief exclaimed, getting back up on his feet with an exaggerated wobble in his balance. “Sorry, I, uh, haven't gotten my sea legs yet.”

The ship wasn't swaying at all, however. The duo looked at him in confusion.

“Hey, you're the guy I bumped into at the marina,” Antoshi remarked.

“Oh, yeah! Wow, funny running into you again!” he replied, laughing nervously. “Well, see ya around!” His legs no longer trembled as he shuffled off in a hurry. Finding his antics peculiar, the duo shrugged to each other and headed back inside.

The thief banged his fist against a nearby wall in frustration. ‘What else can go wrong today?’

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

By mid-afternoon, the ferry neared a small marina at the southern edge of Pallet Town. Antoshi and Fireball stood outside on the upper deck of the ship, taking in the sight of the new location with awe-struck gazes. From their vantage point, they saw many houses and stores lining the roads. The town was quaint and colorful with cars and pedestrians bustling about. The buildings had roofs of all different colors in the spirit of its 'palette' namesake.

Once the ferry docked, its passengers began to file out one by one. The duo headed out of the marina with eager grins, ready to see as much as they could in the short time they had to spare. The would-be thief followed at a distance behind them, still seething from the earlier mishaps.

"So, where to first?" Fireball asked.

Antoshi pulled out his compendium. “Hmm, … I think we should just make a beeline straight through the center of town. It's the quickest path and it has some sights along the way.”

Fireball shuddered as Antoshi put the guide away. "I hate bees."

Antoshi chuckled, marching forth alongside his friend. “Well, maybe if you didn't bother every hive you saw, you wouldn't have such a problem with them.”

"But their honey is so delicious."

With that remark, Fireball's stomach began to rumble. The duo glanced at his belly, then at each other.

“C'mon, let's find a place to grab some food along the way. We'll have an early dinner.”

Fireball nodded happily in agreement.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The pair strolled down the old-fashioned brick-lined sidewalk — a thematic mix of colorful and white at various points. Everything about the area was warm and welcoming. Many passersby smiled, waved or greeted the duo. Some of them were fascinated with a rare Pokémon like Fireball, particularly at how abnormally big he was. Antoshi chatted with them, introducing his friend to others as well as their Pokémon, too.

The thief watched from afar, arms folded across his chest. He stewed at how friendly the pair were, shaking his head in frustration as they mingled with so many potential witnesses.

Once they crossed the street, they curiously wandered over to a large, conspicuous, two-story house. It had a queue of people around the block waiting to get in. Antoshi's eyes lit up upon realizing what it was.

“Oh, wow,” he said, awe-struck. “This is the old Oak Laboratory! It's been here since the founding of the town. I've heard the current professor is something of a celebrity.” He noticed a sign on a fence outside the lab. “Five thousand dollars just to go inside? I guess we'll have to pass on this part of the tour, Fireball.”

"Fine by me. That means we get to eat sooner!" Fireball remarked, as they continued on their way.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

A short time later, they neared a quaint sidewalk restaurant. Several tables and chairs were housed inside of a small wrought-iron fence.

“'Please seat yourself',” Antoshi read aloud the sign next to the entrance.

"Don't have to tell me twice!" Fireball said, eagerly taking a seat at one of the tables.

“Good thing these chairs are metal,” Antoshi said. “We don't need you breaking yet another one.”

He took his backpack off and sat across from his friend. They each picked up a menu that'd already been laid out on the table. No one else was seated at the other tables, allowing them to freely talk without judging ears listening in.

"I like places like this," Fireball said, "but I really prefer the all-you-can-eat buffets."

Antoshi shook his head. “I'm never taking you to one of those again after we got kicked out the last time.”

"I couldn't help it! They had waffles! Tons and tons of waffles! That's my favorite food!"

“Yeah, and you ate them all. It's a good thing you were able to walk after that or they would've had to forklift you out.”

The two continued looking over the menu when Fireball suddenly began to hyperventilate. Antoshi looked over at him with concern. Fireball stared back with wide eyes, slowly turning the menu around and pointing to a large picture of waffles with syrup. Antoshi sighed and smiled.

A few moments later, a perky, young waitress came out to greet them.

“Hello there!” she said, grabbing their attention. “Welcome to The Sweet Sunkern, my name is Gemma. What can I get for ya'?”

“I will have the chicken salad,” Antoshi replied with a smile, as he set his menu down.

“Very nice! And how about the handsome Typhlosion?”

She chuckled, watching Fireball restlessly bounce up and down in his chair.

“He seems very excited to order!”

Antoshi smiled, sitting back, comfortably. “I know exactly why. He'll have the waffles,” Fireball eagerly nodded to the waitress, “with syrup,” Fireball nodded with further enthusiasm. “and lots of blueberries on top.”

“Sure thing! Wow, you know, that's quite impressive that you can understand your Pokémon so well.”

“Almost like I can hear him speak,” Antoshi joked. Gemma shared a laugh with him.

“I'll be right back with your food,” she said, before heading back inside.

Fireball sighed in content, settling down before picking up his fork and knife. "It took so long for you to teach me how to eat with utensils," Fireball said, smiling. "Just being able to hold them right took weeks. I'm surprised you had so much patience with me."

“It was worth it considering how many napkins you used to go through.” The two of them chuckled.

"It's really nice here," Fireball remarked. Antoshi nodded.

“Yeah, it's much calmer and more peaceful than we're used to — kind of like Lavender Town, except that was more of an … eerie peaceful. Guess that's just how towns are compared to the city.”

"I like it," Fireball said, rapping his fork and knife on the table. "Now, where's my waffles?"

Antoshi sighed. “Next thing I have to teach you is some restraint.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi and Fireball took their time enjoying their meal. The would-be thief watched them from across the street, grumbling as he bit into a hamburger from the food stand he leaned an arm against.

After the duo finished eating, they were back on their way through the welcoming streets of Pallet. They continued to be stalked by the thief.

The pair came across a picturesque town square where several large oak trees grew. Small groups of people wandered around, some of them taking pictures with their phones. At the center was a large, stone statue atop a pedestal in the middle of a man-made pond. Antoshi gasped loudly in awe. A huge grin crept across his face, eagerly jogging over to see the statue up close.

“I've been waiting for so long to see this statue,” he remarked, his gaze unblinking. “Wow, … it's really him.”

"That's the guy you've mentioned a few times, isn't it?" Fireball curiously asked, standing next to his friend. "The guy that became Champion a long time ago?"

“Yep. The legendary Trainer from Pallet Town.”

"I'd love to have been able to battle that Pikachu of his," Fireball remarked with a confident smirk. "Some of the Pokémon I've met talk about that Pikachu, too — it's not all about the Trainers, you know."

“I already know that with you as my best friend,” he replied. The two of them grinned at each other before looking back to the statue. “This statue was built over seventy years ago to commemorate them. … I'm really glad I got to see it.”

Fireball noticed a plaque on a small pedestal near Antoshi's feet. "Hey, what's that say in front of you?"

“Let's see. It says, 'Dedicated to all Trainers and their beloved Pokémon aspiring to be the very best. We—the people of Pallet Town—erect this statue in honor of the sacrifices he and his Pokémon have made, and the people whose lives they've touched. May it serve as a keystone to those who dream and those who endeavor.'”

Antoshi was moved by the poignant words, beaming with pride. They were words that had deep meaning to himself and Fireball. He looked up at the statue again with a smile. “It sure will.”

The pair proudly gazed at the statue a little longer. With a content sigh, Antoshi nudged his friend. “Let's get a move on.” He brought out his compendium again as they strolled away. “According to the map, the Pokémon Center's at the northern edge of town. We'll make a quick stop to give Mom and Dad a call.”

"Sounds like a plan!" Fireball said.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi and Fireball entered the Pokémon Center, finding it not terribly busy. There was an oddly pleasant flowery scent in the air, most likely from the Roselia sitting by its male Trainer at the far end of the main area. Nurse Joy tended to a couple of Trainers and their lethargic Raticate at the front desk. The duo headed over to the videophones to make their call to home.

Antoshi's doting mother appeared on screen, answering the phone slower than usual.

“Antoshi!” his mother exclaimed, with a surprised look on her face. “You've never called two days in a row! Is everything okay?” Antoshi's father casually walked by in the background, appearing just as surprised as she was before he headed over to the phone.

“Yeah, everything's great!” he replied, smiling. Fireball waved to them from behind Antoshi. “We're actually in the Pallet Town Pokémon Center now. We're not going to be staying here for much longer, though. We'll be on the road to Viridian City by tonight.”

“You got there so quickly!” his father remarked. “And you're leaving already, too? I hope you're not moving around too fast now.”

Antoshi nodded. “Unfortunately, we are, Dad. We have to, though. I hate to leave so soon but we don't have a lot of time before the tournament sign-ups close. That's less than two weeks. We also don't know how tough the Gym in Viridian is going to be, so we might not have any time to spare.”

“I always trust your judgment, Antoshi,” his mother said, warmly. “Sometimes I think you're wise beyond your years. … Well, I'll have another shipment of clothes and some more money ready for you by the time you get to Viridian City, okay?”

“Thanks, Mom,” Antoshi replied, grinning.

“And make sure you send back all your old clothes this time.”

“Aww, but, that red shirt with the white stripe down the middle is really comfy!” Antoshi whined, playfully smirking.

All your old clothes.”

“I got it, Mom. … Oh! We were able to see a few of the sights in Pallet. It's really nice here.”

“That's wonderful, Antoshi! I'm always happy when you're happy, honey. I know someday you'll look back fondly on all these memories you're making. Talk to us again when you get to Viridian City!”

“I will. Love you guys.”

“We love you, Antoshi!” they both said, before the call disconnected.

Antoshi smiled as he got up from the chair. “Looks like we're off to Route 1,” he said, looking at Fireball, who nodded in agreement. “This is the fastest we've ever moved through our entire journey. Think you'll be full enough for the rest of the night?”

"We … still have those snacks just in case, right?"

“Yes, we still have snacks,” Antoshi replied with a chuckle. Fireball sighed and wiped his brow in relief.

As they departed the Pokémon Center for the town's northern limits, the luckless thief kept an eye on them from nearby. Leaning against a lamppost, he spoke quietly to an unknown party on his cell phone. He became progressively more cross with the person on the other end of the call. In a huff, he hung up and put his phone in his back pocket. He angrily straightened his jacket before stuffing his hands in its pockets, following the duo once again.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi and Fireball reached the gate house separating Pallet Town from Route 1. It was as busy as any crosswalk connecting people from one side of a street to the next. The gate housed a Trainer checkpoint, allowing Antoshi to scan his Trainer Card with the authorities working inside. Like the Pokémon Centers, the scan updated his last known location.

“Thank you,” he said, as he was given back his Trainer Card from the gate's guard. He slipped the card back in his wallet.

“Hey, no problem, youngster,” the gatekeeper responded, adding as the pair departed, “you two stay safe now!”

“We will!” Antoshi called back, grinning.

They entered Route 1 through the gate's automatic doors. Both of them had the same level of intrigue and curiosity on their faces as they did every time they set foot in a new location. The large, spacious route was a long, winding dirt path with patches of large grass at the path's edges leading into the forest. Like any route, there were a mix of Trainers, Pokémon, and pedestrians traveling through. The route was lined with the occasional park bench, litter bins, and set of street lights on either side of the pathway.

On one side beyond the trees, cars drove to and fro. The nearby roadway connected Viridian, Pallet, and other nearby small towns that had cropped up in the past decades. Being neighbored to popular towns and cities attracted homebuyers.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The duo continued walking until nightfall. Antoshi had scooped up various sticks and twigs along the way, storing them in his backpack's empty side pocket. They found a clearing outside the beaten path to set up camp. Antoshi used the tinder he'd collected, along with a casual puff of flame from Fireball, to bring a small campfire to life. He rolled out his sleeping bag, while Fireball settled in on the ground next to him.

Having undressed into his usual sleeping attire, Antoshi neatly folded his clothes and placed them in his backpack which was set down between himself and Fireball. He climbed into his sleeping bag.

"Another comfy patch of grass to sleep on," Fireball remarked in content, resting his forepaws behind his head.

Surrounded by acres of untouched forest, they happily stared up at the countless stars in the sky. The air was always so crisp and fresh in the forests, especially at night. The breeze caused leaves to rustle softly amid the quiet crackle of the fire and chirping crickets.

"Antoshi," Fireball said, breaking the silence. "Why do you think you can talk to Pokémon?"

Antoshi sighed heavily. “This again?” he asked, looking over at his friend. “How many times are we gonna have this conversation?”

"I just know we'll figure this out! Everyone thinks you're totally crazy or something to be able to talk to me. What do we know about it so far?"

“Well, let's see,” Antoshi said. “After we got our first badge together, we were both really excited. It felt like you and I suddenly had this amazing bond together, like we were an unstoppable team. Then, out of nowhere, you … started talking to me. Before that, I just heard you growl or make noises or the usual 'Quilava, Quilava!' I thought it was a normal thing that Trainers go through after bonding with their Pokémon, so I didn't think much about talking to you in public until I started getting funny looks. Turns out it wasn't some normal thing. Still, journeying all by myself up to that point had been really lonely, and now I could talk to you. How could I keep your in your Poké Ball after that?”

Fireball grinned. "I love hearing the story about how we started adventuring together! Have you thought of anything new about the whole 'talking to me' thing?"

“Well, there's—” Antoshi's eyes nervously shifted away. “Err, … never mind.” Fireball looked at his friend with suspicion.

"Antoshi, I'm your best friend. I know you're not telling me something. Who else are you gonna tell your secrets to, anyway? Who else am I gonna tell?"

“Okay, okay, fine.” Antoshi sighed heavily, thinking for a moment. “I've noticed lately that … well, that I may be different from normal people.”

"I could've told you that."

“Okay, aside from being able to talk to you, I just …” Antoshi trailed off, sitting up in his sleeping bag. “Here. Look at what I found out I can do.”

Fireball also sat up, curiously watching as Antoshi cupped his hands with his palms facing upward. Antoshi stared at his open hands and concentrated intensely, quietly grunting with effort. His brown irises came alight with a reddish hue.

Fireball watched in astonishment as bright particles of light began to form over his hands and pulled together into a large ball. The amorphous orb of light shimmered with a brilliant hue of red and felt comfortably warm. It was identical to the object that destroyed the post box.

"Whoa," Fireball remarked. "What is it?"

“I'm … not sure, but … it takes a lot of concentration … for me to—” the ball of light abruptly burst back into particles and faded away. “… Hold it.” Antoshi sighed, letting his hands fall away. “When I don't concentrate, it just pops like a balloon. It kind of makes me a little tired afterward, too. I don't know why I'm able to do it.”

"That's some crazy puberty you're going through," Fireball joked. Antoshi cut his eyes at him. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding!" Fireball rest a paw on his chin as he thought for a moment. "Well, I've never seen anything like that before. No person we've ever met did it, either. … Hang on a minute. Since when did you have time to find out you could do this, when we're together all the time?"

“Remember the time when you nearly fell off that cliff on Route 14?”

"Yeah, you caught me by the legs and pulled me up. I'm still amazed by how strong you were."

“Well, … when I was holding on to you, I was so scared that I was going to lose you, and that I'd never see you again. That's when I noticed my hands and my arms were glowing red — just like that light that's been appearing around me since then. As it turns out, it isn't just some fancy light, there's definitely some kind of power behind it. It always feels like I have … supercharged energy whenever my emotions peak. Once my arms started glowing, pulling you back up was a breeze. After you were safe, it just went away. I spent a whole bunch of nights awake after that trying to get it to happen again and, eventually, I was able to form that glowing ball I just showed you.”

Antoshi looked away despondently, rubbing his arm.

"… What's wrong?" Fireball asked in concern.

“I didn't want to tell you about this because, … well, honestly I'm a little nervous about it.”

"Why are you nervous? This is cool!"

“I'm unsure about what it means. Right now, it doesn't seem like it has much purpose. It may also mean much more than just a neat light show in my hands. I'm not sure … if this is something dangerous. I can't tell if it's a good feeling or a bad feeling that I'm getting when I use it. It just makes me feel odd inside, like my whole body is shaking with this crazy energy I can barely contain.”

Fireball blinked in confusion. "… And you're sure this isn't puberty?"


"Sorry! I just don't really know anything more than you do. Maybe we should ask someone else."

“Like who?”

Fireball stared blankly for a moment. "Good question."

“Well, maybe I'll just … understand it better in time, I guess.”

"Maybe. For now, we have something cool to look at whenever we're bored!"

Antoshi couldn't help but smile. “I guess there's always that.” He laid back down in his sleeping bag and sighed. “Well, goodnight, Fireball.”

"Goodnight, Antoshi."

Fireball followed his friend's lead, curling up comfortably on the ground. The pair rested up for another busy day.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

That night, Antoshi had another somber dream. He found himself sitting in the same bed he had dreamt about the previous night. He looked down at his hand, finding that he was trembling uncontrollably. He again had feelings of sorrow, but now those feelings were exacerbated and accompanied by fear and panic.

He heard a muffled voice from an unknown source speaking to him. He couldn't discern the words. The voice began laughing — a deep, cruel laugh. He clasped his forehead and shouted in agony.

“Can I really do this?” he mused. “This … this seems crazy.”

“Give it time,” the voice replied.

He panted fearfully, trembling from head to toe. “I feel sick,” he said. “… I can't! I just can't do this! I don't want to do this anymore!”

He raced to his open bedroom window, defenestrating himself. He plummeted toward the ground while the mysterious voice continued its laughter. The moment his body impacted some bushes, Antoshi jolted awake with a terrified shout.

All was quiet in the middle of the night. Fireball was sound asleep. Their campfire had smoldered. Antoshi was in a cold sweat, his breathing ragged. His heart raced from the residual fear and panic of his dream.

‘What is going on?’ he thought, running a shaking hand through his hair. ‘What are these dreams I keep having? It's like I'm having someone else's dreams, … but why do they feel so real?’

Antoshi reached into his backpack, pulling out his canteen of water to drink from. He sighed heavily, putting the cap back on and stored it away before he laid back down. His trembling slowly subsided as he gazed up at the starry night sky. He brought a hand in front of his face, focusing for a moment, summoning the same bright red energy as before into his palm. He clenched his fist to extinguish the light before letting his hand fall away.

‘This strange light … and the dreams have to be connected. But how?’

He stayed awake for a short while, attempting to cleanse his restless mind of the dream by recalling memories of soon after Fireball evolved into a Typhlosion. After having finally bonded, battling together was like second nature to them both — and they realized they were quite good at it. Deciding to keep his best friend as his one and only Pokémon, Antoshi felt it was time for them to take their journey to the next level and challenge Gyms.

Celadon Gym was the first. It was their best option, due to the Gym's Grass-type specialty. However, as was the case with several Gyms they traveled to, they were unsuccessful on their first attempt. A Gym full of Trainers specializing in Grass-types expectedly formulated strategies for dealing with their weaknesses, like Fire-types. Though disheartening at first, they used the defeat to strengthen their resolve and train even harder for the next attempt, and the next, and so on. Eventually, they found success and earned their first badge. That's when they started to believe they could make it all the way to the Indigo Plateau.

The memories were enough to help him fall back asleep.

Just then, the relentless thief emerged from the trees. He smiled fiendishly. With the pair asleep, there was finally nothing to stop him from his goal. He tiptoed toward their campsite. Once he was close enough, he reached down and grabbed hold of Antoshi's backpack.

Fireball turned over and angrily smacked the backpack out of his hand. The thief jumped, stifling a surprised shout. He thought he'd been made, but Fireball was still asleep.

"I'm taking that last pudding …" Fireball muttered, before smacking his lips.

The thief sighed in relief before trying again. “Come on,” he whispered, trying to slowly and gently pry it away from Fireball's heavy paw. Fireball suddenly yanked the backpack toward him. The Typhlosion gently wrestled with it in his sleep, shuffling its contents around, before sighing happily and hugging it tight.

The thief looked on in horrified disbelief. How in the world could he possibly be this unlucky? He resisted the urge to scream at the top of his lungs in rage. Seething, he retreated back into the woods.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The following morning, the duo awoke almost in sync. They sat up and stretched their arms high. Antoshi's backpack rolled off of Fireball's chest. The two looked at it in confusion, before looking at each other. Antoshi smirked.

“You hugged my backpack during the night again, huh?” Antoshi asked.

Fireball handed the pack to him. "I can't help it. Sometimes I need something to hold while I sleep."

“Well, I hope you didn't get fur all over it again,” Antoshi joked. He unzipped the backpack and pulled out a new pair of clothes. He also took out a wrapped trail bar for himself and tossed a small bag full of Pokémon food to Fireball. “Here you go, buddy. Let's make sure we're fueled up before we head out.”

Fireball didn't bother responding. Before Antoshi even finished speaking, he was already busy munching through the food with a pleased expression on his face.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Wearing a black polo shirt and tan cargo shorts, Antoshi cinched his backpack over his shoulders. He crouched down to tie his usual white sneakers with red chevrons on top.

"Don't you ever get tired of wearing those shirts with collars?" Fireball curiously asked.

Antoshi idly brushed some of Fireball's fur off the backpack's straps. “I suppose so. I don't feel like telling Mom that since she really likes how they look on me. I guess it is kind of bad that my mom still dresses me, but … they look good, right?”

"Yeah! Kind of makes you look like a golf player." Antoshi rolled his eyes, scoffing and grinning.

“Very funny,” he sarcastically replied, much to Fireball's amusement. “C'mon, you. Let's get that eighth badge!”

"Challenge accepted!" Fireball replied, as the two set off toward Viridian City.

The thief watched them from behind a tree, looking frazzled and nearly foaming at the mouth with ire.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

By noon, Antoshi and Fireball neared the northern end of Route 1. They started seeing large buildings towering over the trees, getting taller and closer with each passing minute. The gate separating Route 1 from Viridian City came into view in the distance, and the bustle of passersby started to increase. They rode on high along the gentle breeze carrying them to their destination. Excitement and opportunity were in the air. They grinned at each other, just a short jog away from entering another new city.

A group of young kids soon crowded around the duo. They cooed at the sight of Fireball towering over them.

“Wow, cool! A Typhlosion!” one of them exclaimed, as they all began to pet him.

Fireball grinned. 'Please give me snacks, please give me snacks …' he thought.

Antoshi smiled, watching his friend soak up the attention, while also responding to the kids as they asked him a barrage of questions.

The thief's eyes lit up, seeing that the pair were distracted once again. He casually made his way over to Antoshi, when suddenly a Tauros came rushing down the pathway toward him. He screamed and jumped out of the way of the barreling bull, followed by a Pokémon Breeder chasing after it.

“Tauros, get back here!” the breeder shouted.

“Wow, cool! A Tauros!” one of the youngsters in the group exclaimed, prompting the crowd of kids to head off after it. They accompanied the breeder in chasing the Tauros, laughing and shouting.

“Bye-bye!” one of the kids shouted, waving to Antoshi and Fireball.

“Bye!” Antoshi replied, waving back, before turning to his friend. “You're so popular, Fireball,” he joked.

Fireball chuckled, and the two were merrily on their way again.

The thief stood at the edge of the beaten path, staring at the duo. He let out a frustrated scream, fed up with all the misfortune keeping him from the simple task of stealing a kid's wallet.

“Screw this!” the thief angrily shouted. He broke out into a sprint toward them. The pair heard him coming and turned around just in time to see him snatch Antoshi's wallet before bolting off. “See ya, kid!” he shouted.

The nearby people on the route watched the scene unfold in shock.

“Hey!” Antoshi exclaimed as he and Fireball gave chase. “He stole my wallet!”

"And our badges!" Fireball shouted. He was about to use a Rollout attack on him, but the thief ran into the crowd of people. In doing so, he shoved a lady with long, blue hair to the ground.

“Ow!” she cried out. The duo stopped to check on her.

Antoshi knelt down to the woman. “Are you okay?” he asked in concern.

“Yeah, … I think so,” she replied with a hand on her head. While Antoshi helped her to her feet, Fireball angrily growled before charging into the crowd of people.

Antoshi gasped at the sight of Fireball running off into the frightened crowd. Memories of a more rambunctious Quilava came flooding back to him in an instant. His fear of an uncontrolled Fireball had been realized.

“Fireball, wait!” he called out.

"Don't worry, Antoshi!" Fireball shouted back. "I'm not letting him get away!"

“I'm sorry, I have to go!” Antoshi told the woman, quickly rushing off to follow his friend. “Fireball!”

The thief rushed through the crowd traveling through the gate house, garnering angry yells and complaints as he shoved them aside. He continued running after passing into the Viridian City limits.

He found a nearby alleyway to duck into and pulled out his phone. With his ear to the receiver, he waited for the other party to pick up.

“It's Matt,” he said. “Track my phone, I need to be picked up right now.” The receiver hummed with the sound of a loud, complaining voice. “Just get your ass over here! I'm being chased by some kid's Typhlosion!” He peered his head out of the alley just long enough for Fireball to spot him through the crowd.

"Hey!" Fireball shouted, running toward him on all fours.

“Oh, crap,” Matt muttered to himself before running further down the alley.

Back in the gate house, Antoshi pushed through the crowd, apologizing to the people he bumped into.

“Hey, kid, wait!” the gate guard called out to him from behind the desk. “Come scan your Trainer Card if you're a Trainer!”

“Sorry, I'm in a hurry!” Antoshi exclaimed.

The gate guard had cause for suspicion with two people and a Typhlosion barreling through the gate, and causing a scene. He picked up the phone and informed the Viridian City Police of the incident.

Antoshi's first steps within Viridian City were ones of trepidation. He hadn't seen Fireball since he ran off, and it was starting to scare him. He panted nervously, looking in all directions through the dense crowds of people as best he could. The sounds of pedestrian footsteps marching every which way became deafening. Cars sped by him as he looked across streets. He called Fireball's name along the way, but got no response.

He didn't know where to look, finding himself lost and alone in a loud, busy, unfamiliar city. He was without his Trainer Card, and without his only friend. The sights and sounds overwhelmed him and made him dizzy. His heart sank at the thought of being separated from Fireball.

“Fireball!” he shouted as loudly as he could in panic. “Where are you?!”

Chapter 4 »
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Winter can't come soon enough
Gym battle time! And it's right into the action from the start here. It's funny how Fireball's Rollout is basically described as a spin dash (a la Sonic). The descriptions of the moves are, for the most part, pretty clear and do a good job of, say, making an attack like Hyper Beam seem particularly devastating (also, Hyper Beam on a Charizard? Blaire must've graduated from the Lance School of Pokémon Battling). You should try to be cautious of getting overly-descriptive, however. Otherwise things like this could happen:

the flames on his back erupting into a massive pillar of flames that completely engulfed his opponent
Yeah, using flames as a descriptor twice back-to-back like this weakens the description as a whole. In fact, you could probably get away with saying "erupting into a massive pillar that completely engulfed his opponent," and you'd be fine.

Fireball himself is clearly very powerful. He's been level-grinded considerably, furthering my opinion that Antoshi is the equivalent of a Pokémon player who tries to solo the game with their starter. Maybe that's the point and maybe that's why the battle feels surprisingly lopsided. Either that, or you're trying to highlight Blaire's inexperience as a gym leader?

“And miss out on the opportunity to cosplay the greatest Gym Leader of all time? No way!”
Pffbttt, you're such a dork, Blaire. But this does bring up my main critique of the battle as a whole. For someone claiming to try and imitate Blaine, it didn't seem like Blaire was really employing much in the way of strategy. Blaine's whole gimmick is that he's the studious, thinking gym leader, so I was expecting to see some scenarios that would force Antoshi to think outside the box a bit. But it seemed more like Blaire went the brute force route. Which is fine. It doesn't dampen the battle all that much. Actually, kind of makes me think of Blaire as being more like Flannery than Blaine.

There was some casual conversation between the main duo that was about the same level of cheerfulness as the first two chapters. But then we have the unusual dream sequence. It's a bit too short for me to make anything of it, but I think I can confidently say it'll be a recurring plot point so I'll wait to see what happens next in that regard. Especially since it looks like Antoshi's going to have to deal with a mugger. I mean, the guy seems like a petty thief at the very least. There could be more to him. But that's what the next chapter's for. ^^


Well-Known Member
Blaire smiled. “Well, Blaire's a nickname I came up with. My real name is Leslie.”

Look, Gary, here I am!


Lost but Seeking
This is a cute start to a trainerfic! It has kind of an old-school, classic vibe, although of course it departs quite a bit from the basic trainerfic mold in that you're starting with a trainer who already has six badges (and seven, after the most recent chapter). Presumably that means we'll be focusing less on Antoshi's journey as such and more on some other plotline that's going to come in, unless you're going to have him do the E4/League tournament and then go straight into collecting badges somewhere else. (Seems unlikely to me.)

I kind of would like to see a little more indication of where this story is going, though! Like I said, it's been pretty standard trainerfic fare. And it's definitely solid and a pleasant read, but I don't feel like there's a real hook here yet. There's a little hinting at something big to come at the end of chapter three, with the dream and the shady guy, but the dream in particular looks to be pointing to something interesting coming down the road. I'd love to see more engagement with whatever your primary plot is earlier on! The summary you give is also kind of vague--Antoshi discovers he has powers (besides pokéspeech?), but where are you going to go with that? Him getting powers isn't inherently interesting, it's whatever conflict(s) are going to arise from that that will form the heart of your story.

In general these first chapters have been a little lacking in conflict, I think. Things have been super easy for Antoshi thus far in the story. He curbstomped some random trainer, found the ferry to Cinnabar, and then curbstomped the gym leader (one of the final gym leaders! Taking out multiple pokémon in one hit!). Nothing has really shown up to challenge him in any way. To me this isn't very interesting reading: where characters really show their mettle is when they're put up against situations where they're forced to struggle for their wins. That's where they show their true colors, and where the audience can really root for them. Like, if you want to show how knowledgeable Antoshi is, how much he loves pokémon and has done loads of research on them, you should give him Cinnabar gym questions that are actually really difficult, not outright pathetic like the ones we're shown in the text. The notorious arbok evolving into seviper reference was cute, but making such ridiculously easy questions really undermines the credibility of the gym battle as something Antoshi needs to worry about. (And Blaire claims that literally no one else has ever gotten through all of them without getting any wrong? Come onnnnn.) Similarly if you want to show how good a battler Antoshi is, how strong his bond is with Fireball, you need to put him up against opponents who seem like they really know what they're doing. Thus far Antoshi's just been breezing along, and that means he hasn't had much opportunity to show the audience what he's made of.

One last thing before I get off the topic of structure: one thing that I think contributes to my feeling that the early chapters are slow is the fact that I'm not sure why Chapter One is there. I think Chapter Two presents everything Chapter One does, even in a bit more depth. Like, you touch on Antoshi's relationship with his parents, his relationship with Fireball and his goal of taking on the League with only one pokémon... What else is there in Chapter One? If you started in with Chapter Two, I don't think I'd feel like I was missing anything.

Okay, so that veered into critique a little faster than I was intending, so let's take a step back a moment and talk about what I think this story does well. I think that comedy is probably your greatest strength here. You're good about including little details--like the arbok/seviper thing I mentioned earlier--that are fun and funny, and the interactions between Fireball and Antoshi are great. The two of them play off each other well, and Fireball's large ham sort of personality is a lot of fun. Having a strong relationship between these two is obviously important, since it's presumably going to be the central one in the story, and I think it's been working out well so far.

In addition, I think you do a nice job of scene-setting when you get away from the characters a bit and describe the environment. In particular I want to call out the opening paragraphs of Chapter Two, where we get a little bit of Antoshi enjoying the boat ride. I thought it was nice and evocative, both in terms of setting the scene for how the boat ride itself is going, and in showing Antoshi's excitement and how much he's enjoying the ride. These sorts of scenes help the world feel more alive, as we see it having a real impression on the characters.

I also like the little bits of worldbuilding that you've included in the story, in particular tech things like the system for alterting parents when their child checks into a pokécenter. (Although there are some real privacy concerns with that one!) The decision to set this decades (I think?) after the time of R/B/Y is interesting, and it will be cool to see the ways in which the world has changed over the years. In particular, I'm curious what that will mean for a particular antagonist in this story. Team Rocket is of course the classic go-to for a Kanto 'fic, but are they even still around now? Is there someone way scarier out there, or is there going to be a different kind of threat entirely, like some kind of environmental one or one to do with pokémon? It was neat to hear Antoshi talk about how Cinnabar had changed since the eruption, and for it to sound substantially different just from the way you described it (all those high-rises!). I'm looking forward to more of that sort of thing.

There is one issue I'd like to bring up to do with worldbuilding, and that's Antoshi's pokéspeech ability. Other reviewers have already mentioned how human-sounding Fireball is, so I won't retread that. Antoshi's ability to communicate with pokémon is kind of a classic fanfic trope, but it's also one that I don't really think many people really understand how powerful it is. A lot of the pokémon-trainer relationship is predicated on the idea that pokémon are fantastic creatures, but there's this gap between them and humans that means you can kind of see how people are okay with capturing pokémon and kind of dictating their lives for them over the course of a trainer's journey. When the pokémon are articulate and capable of clearly expressing their desires and opinions to their trainers, though, I think that this can stray towards the creepy.

Consider stuff like this:

At the beginning of his journey, when Fireball was still a Quilava, Antoshi was very open to the idea of catching more Pokémon. He wanted to create a team and have more friends to accompany Fireball and himself. As he began to battle, however, he soon realized that Fireball was capable of handling entire battles against multiple opponents on his own.
Okay, but what does Fireball think about that? Does he like soloing everything, or would he prefer to have more friends to hang out with than just Antoshi, other people to share the battling load, to teach him new techniques or commiserate with after a tough loss? This is Fireball's journey, too. What does he want out of it?

Antoshi had initially kept Fireball in a Poké Ball. After a while of having no one else to accompany him on lonely roads, he began to take Fireball out of his Poké Ball more and more until eventually Fireball became his constant traveling companion.
So the decision to keep Fireball out of his pokéball came about because Antoshi was lonely, not because Fireball didn't enjoy being cooped up or anything like that? Again, where's his side in all this?

None of this is to say that it's bad that Antoshi and Fireball have decided to go it solo, or that Fireball shouldn't want what Antoshi wants. It's just that things are framed as Antoshi making all the decisions and Fireball kind of going along with it, without real opinions or goals of his own. If Fireball is as intelligent as a human, and capable of communicating his thoughts to Antoshi, then surely he must have some agency? Surely he doesn't just go along with whatever Antoshi wants all the time? It's some sense of Fireball as a person separate from Antoshi that I'd like to see a little more of in the story, as well as the ways that being able to communicate with pokémon besides Fireball influences Antoshi's decisions and actions.

All in all, you can take a protagonist who can talk to pokémon a lot of interesting places, but as of now you don't seem interested in exploring that sort of thing. Which is fine! But in that case, why does Antoshi have this ability at all? How does it play into the main point of the narrative? It just hasn't been utilized much yet, is what I'm getting at. And it makes things tricky, because it has a tendency to make what might generally be accepted as "normal" trainer behavior, like the stuff I called out above, start to seem a bit gross.

On the other hand, stuff like Antoshi telling the ice cream vendor that Fireball would pick whatever flavor he wanted are good! Basically, as long as the story presents Fireball as someone who's doing things because he wants to, as someone who matters just as much as Antoshi, then it's fine. It's just when Antoshi seems to be controlling him, rather than treating him like a friend and equal, that things get kind of skeezy.

In sum, I think you've put together a nice, lighthearted story, with good characterization and an interesting setting. However, the story feels like it's been spinning its wheels a bit to me. I'm looking forward to when the plot really kicks in and Antoshi and Fireball have to rise to some kind of challenge! It's obvious you've put a lot of work and love into this one, and I wish you the best of luck with the upcoming chapters.


Imagination Station
Chapter 4

Matt, the thief, raced down a long alleyway with Fireball closing in behind him. He panted heavily, nearly tripping over a pile of discarded wood due to frequently looking down at the display on his phone. He recklessly ran out into the street, blowing through a crowd of people to get to the pavement. Cars screeched to a halt to avoid hitting him, drivers shouting and honking their horns angrily.

Fireball charged through the gap Matt made, pursuing him relentlessly. The thief slid over the hood of a car parked on the side of the street before rushing down another alleyway. With Fireball once again closing in on him, Matt looked at his phone before abruptly turning the next corner.

“Here he comes,” Matt said, loudly enough for Fireball to hear.

Fireball narrowed his eyes and followed him around the corner. He came to a sudden stop, face-to-face with Matt and another person. It was a young woman with dark skin and long, brown hair, standing in front of a parked convertible car with the top down. She wore a sleeveless black shirt that hung slightly over her calf-length jeans, along with black high-top sneakers. She expressed her bitterness at just having to be there.

“Go, Malamar!” she said, tossing out a Poké Ball. The ball opened to reveal a creature akin to an upside down squid. It had no rhythm, no life, no motion to its body — standing still as a statue. Its eyes were brutally cold and empty, as though it had been through terrible trauma. Fireball was unsettled by its glare, too disturbed to want to battle it.

“Malamar, Hypnosis!”

Its eyes glowed in a mesmerizing swirl of colors. Fireball could not turn away from Malamar's gaze. His vision blurred and faded as he fell into a hypnotic state. His eyes rolled closed, falling unconscious while still on his hind legs.

“All right,” she said. “He's out. Let's get him in the—” Fireball suddenly groaned, shaking his head and opening his eyes. Matt and his partner looked on in disbelief.

“Oh, crap,” Matt remarked, watching Fireball get up. “This Typhlosion is tough!”

The young woman sucked her teeth. “Malamar, Hypnosis again! Make it count!”

Malamar did as commanded. Fireball's eyes rolled back in his head before he collapsed to the ground. The young woman carefully walked up to the Typhlosion, nudging him the tip of her sneakers. “Now he's out.”

Both of them sighed in relief.

“You couldn't park anywhere closer, Jalyn?” Matt asked, perturbed. “I had to run a mile!”

You couldn't steal one little kid's wallet sooner?!” she snapped back. “Damn, you're so stupid! You're not even supposed to be here, so don't put any blame on me after you once again prove how useless you are. Sorry that there aren't a thousand nearby alleyways that can fit a car in a moment's notice. How did you even let things get bad enough that you were about to get mauled by some kid's Typhlosion?”

“I got impatient,” he remarked, shrugging. Jalyn stared at him blankly. She shook her head in disappointment before opening the car's trunk. “Look, the point is, I got the kid's wallet and we have a Typhlosion — a strong one! And look at him, he's huge! This big guy can easily sell for millions.”

“Yeah, well, you better hope so. Otherwise, we're dead — literally. With you here, my head is also on the line if you get spotted before we make this delivery.” Jalyn walked over and knelt next to Fireball. She grunted with effort as she managed to roll him over onto his back. “Grab his legs.” Matt followed her instruction while she hooked her arms under Fireball's forelimbs. “All right — one, two, lift.”

The two strained loudly, lifting the heavy Typhlosion, carrying him over to the open trunk. The car's suspension creaked as they laid him inside. They both sighed in relief before Jalyn shut the trunk.

With her hands on her hips, she watched Matt rifle through Antoshi's wallet. “You're a complete idiot,” she remarked. “You were supposed to stay in Cinnabar until the end of the month. Instead, you followed some random kid all the way back here just to steal his wallet. This is why nobody takes you seriously. You're just lucky we managed to bag his Typhlosion. Maybe the boss won't want to gut you for disobeying him once we show him this.”

“He's got a few thousand in cash,” Matt remarked, idly, ignoring her. He opened the side flap to find their seven Gym badges. “Oh-ho, yes. I knew this kid was a pay day. Badges have those little … computer chips inside them. I've seen them go for a hundred grand each. I can get Jeff to buy them off me.”

“Jeff?” Jalyn asked, with a disgusted look on her face. “You mean the creepy guy who sells stuff on the black market that looks like he hasn't showered for … ever?”

“Hey, his money's as good as anyone else's. … It just, ya' know, smells funny.”

“Yeah, well, there's nothing funny about sitting here waiting to get made. Get in the car, Stupid — we're leaving.” Matt scowled at her as she got into the driver's seat. He straightened his aviator jacket and jumped into the passenger side. “Hey! I told you to stop jumping into the car like that! You're going to scratch the upholstery!”

“Whatever,” he muttered, folding his arms across his chest.

She sucked her teeth, exasperated with him. She started the car, slowly drove out of the alley, making her way onto the road. She remained careful to keep her speed restrained to avoid attracting attention while they carried Fireball to an unknown destination.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

A couple hours had passed since Antoshi last saw Fireball. He'd never been separated from his best friend, or even lost sight of him, for such a long stretch of time throughout their entire journey. He continued calling out for Fireball, asking people on the street if they'd seen a Typhlosion.

He held a constant, icy feeling of dread in his chest. He hadn't stopped to eat for lunch at their usual time. He wondered if Fireball had eaten yet, hoping the Typhlosion was simply lost like he was and trying to make his way back to him. He nervously wrung his hands, his eyes wide, constantly on the lookout for Fireball. With a heavy heart, he trudged onward around the city. He refused to rest until he found Fireball.

‘Okay, what do I do?’ he thought, trying to calm his shaky panting. ‘Fireball's not gone. Fireball is coming back. … Now, do I tell my parents? Should I call them? No, I can't call them since my Trainer Card was in my wallet. I can't remember our new home number since we last moved. Maybe I should look for the police instead. … Yeah, that's what I'll do, I'll go find the police.’

He quickly pulled out his compendium, his hands trembling as he scanned over the map of Viridian City to find the police station. Just as he was about to put the map away, he heard the chirp of police sirens behind him. He and others on the street stopped and turned to see a police cruiser slowing to a halt. The driver door opened. Officer Jenny exited the vehicle, wearing her standard blue-violet police uniform and skirt.

Antoshi was shocked by her timing. He waved his arms to get her attention. “Officer, please help!” he called out, as she put her hat on and straightened it.

She stared at him for a moment, taken aback by the fact he was waving her over. It was certainly not the kind of thing a guilty party would do. Not an intelligent guilty party, at least. She shut the car door before grabbing the radio on her shoulder. She informed her station that she was approaching one of the suspicious persons called in from the Route 1 gate, and then approached the frightened boy.

“What's going on here?” she asked.

“Officer! Y—you have to help me! This guy h—he stole my w—wallet and—and my buddy, Fireball — he's a Typhlosion — he went after him a—and he's lost and I'm lost and I can't find him and you have to help! … I don't know what to do!”

“Okay, okay, … slow down,” she replied, calmly. It was painfully clear to her that the boy was shaken up. “I'm here because the gate guard on Route 1 called in suspicious activity involving a blond kid with a black shirt — that's you — along with another individual and a Pokémon. Let's … just take it from there and explain it slower this time, okay?”

Antoshi nodded, wiping the tears from his eyes. He took a few deep breaths to slow his panicked breathing. He swallowed the lump in his throat before trying again.

“Okay, um, … a man stole my wallet on Route 1. My traveling buddy — he's a Typhlosion named Fireball — chased after him and got away from me. I tried to follow them but, by the time I got out into Viridian City, I—I couldn't find him. I've been looking everywhere for Fireball. He's my only friend and I'm really scared and I don't know what to do.”

“All right, I understand better now,” she said. Antoshi sighed, continuing to wipe the tears from his eyes. “Let me bring you to the police station. We'll take care of you and start searching for your friend. You are not under arrest, okay? I am going to find Fireball for you — I promise.”

“You—you will?” he asked in disbelief.

“Absolutely. I can see how much you care about your Pokémon, and nothing would give me greater joy than having you reunited.”

Antoshi took a deep breath and sighed heavily. A lot of the panic from before finally subsided within him.

“Thank you, officer,” he replied, much more calmly than before. Antoshi followed Jenny back to her squad car where she held the back door open for him. Antoshi climbed into the vehicle and Jenny shut the door behind him.

She got into the driver's seat, reaching for her car's two-way radio. She informed her station that she was returning with him in her custody. Once she got confirmation, she put the car in gear and began to drive back.

“So, what's your name?” she asked, looking at him through the rear-view mirror. The boy was seated behind thick glass plating separating the front and back seats.

“Antoshi,” he softly replied, before clearing his throat.

“Antoshi? That's a unique name. I've never heard it before. I'm Jenny, in case you haven't met any of my sisters during your travels.”

Antoshi grinned weakly. “Fireball and I haven't had any run-ins with the law.”

Jenny chuckled. “That's good. Keep it that way.”

As they drove toward their destination, Antoshi solemnly stared out the window. All he could think about was Fireball, and to hope that he was okay. Memories of when he first met Fireball crept into his mind's eye. Antoshi was just a small child back then. Fireball was an almost newborn Cyndaquil, given to him by his parents who had hoped Antoshi would make a new friend.

At one point, the little Cyndaquil burped up a ball of fire that completely singed off Antoshi's eyebrows and some of his hair.

‘Boy, that was some fireball!’ he recalled father say with a hearty laugh.

‘That's what we'll name him,’ his mother replied, while consoling a crying Antoshi. ‘We'll name him 'Fireball'.’

Antoshi smiled at the recollection. His journey had been like a whirlwind of happiness, hard work, highs and lows. He visited so many new, incredible locations. They made countless wonderful memories that Antoshi wouldn't forget for the rest of his life. Yet, it all never would've happened without Fireball. Antoshi clenched his fists, knowing that Fireball would not give up on him if he was in a bind. Amid the fear and dread in his heart, Antoshi was determined to find his friend.

Just as importantly, he knew he needed to keep his emotions in check — especially during such a test of his inner strength.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The drive to the station was short. Jenny parked the car in a small parking lot outside, before getting out and opening the door for Antoshi. She led him inside the station, greeting her fellow officers.

Antoshi had never been inside of a police station before, and the Viridian station was quite busy. Other officers and their partner Pokémon walked around every which way, phones rang in all directions, the air was rife with the smell of coffee. Jenny guided Antoshi to a small break room that housed several tables and chairs, as well as coffee and snack machines.

“I'm going to enlist the help of a few of my officers on this,” she said. “I'll start working right away to find Fireball for you. You can stay here as long as you like. Feel free to walk around if you need to, but please don't disturb anyone who's working. Otherwise, make yourself at home, okay?”

Antoshi nodded. “Thank you again, Officer Jenny,” he said, quietly. She gave him a reassuring smile before taking her leave.

Antoshi looked around. He was all alone in the small room. He placed his backpack on the ground beneath one of the tables. He paced around briefly before taking a seat. Without Fireball around, everything seemed so eerily quiet. He sighed heavily, his hands clasped. All he could do now was wait and hope for the best.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Jalyn and Matt drove up to a poorly-kept house at the edge of a run-down neighborhood. The sky had become overcast, almost completely white with touches of gray. After they got out of the car, Matt took the lead. He hastily walked up to the front door with Antoshi's wallet in hand. The overgrown lawn was in dire need of maintenance, littered with garbage and belongings.

Matt opened the screen door, giving a few knocks on the wooden front door before standing back on the stoop beside Jalyn.

“So, tell me something,” Jalyn said. “Why did you follow that kid all the way back here just for his wallet?”

“Because, … I … well, I knew that we would get his Typhlosion, too.”

“Oh, man, you are so full of crap.”

Matt sighed, pondering for a brief moment on what to say next. “I don't like to give up on anything, that's why. Yeah, okay, it was stupid and it made no sense — I get it. But I see things through to the end, no matter how crappy the job is.” Jalyn rolled her eyes. He was a completely hopeless endeavor to her.

They waited a minute for Jeff to come to the door, but got no response. “It's the daytime,” she remarked. “That burnout is probably asleep by now.”

“Come on, Jeff,” Matt muttered, knocking harder on the door. “Jeff! It's Matt! Hey, open the door!”

They continued to wait a moment before Jalyn sighed in frustration. “He's catatonic in there. Come on, we have to get to the warehouse and get this Typhlosion off our hands. You'd best hope he sells for a pretty penny because this is the last chance we're getting.”

Matt sighed, following Jalyn back to the car. “Well, what in the hell am I supposed to do with this kid's wallet? I can't sit on this thing forever.”

Jalyn reached over, smacking the glove compartment open, which exposed a handgun housed inside. “Put it in there for now, Stupid.”

Matt scoffed, carelessly flinging the wallet inside and shutting the compartment. He rest his head against his fist, glaring off in the distance as they drove away.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi stood in front of the window in the break room, staring silently. Various police officers had come and went. Antoshi didn't notice any of them, too busy being lost in his own thoughts.

‘Should I go off on my own? What if Officer Jenny can't find Fireball? What if he's hurt? What if he's … he's—’

Officer Jenny entered, followed by two uniformed policemen. “Antoshi?” she said, snapping him back to reality. Antoshi turned his attention to them. “This is Officer Eric and Officer Robert. They're two of the officers that are handling your case. They have a lot of experience in finding missing Pokémon.”

“Hello there, young man,” Eric said to him.

“Hello,” the boy distantly replied, offering a weak smile.

Jenny approached him, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I understand how upset you are. Just know that we've got all of our available officers on the lookout for a missing Typhlosion. They're all over the city at all times of the day and night. We're going to find him — it's just a matter of time.”

“Yeah, … I know,” he quietly said, with doubt in his voice. He forced a smile to her before gazing back out the window. Jenny solemnly nodded. The three officers left the room and headed for the station's front doors.

“Poor kid,” Robert said. “Not knowing where his only Pokémon is must be eating away at him.”

“I know what that's like,” Jenny replied, with a pained look on her face.

After they got outside, Jenny heaved a sigh. “I'm gonna head out on patrol for a bit,” she said. “I'll see if I can find anything.”

“Gotcha,” Robert said, as Jenny departed from their company.

From inside the break room, Antoshi watched her climb into her squad car.

‘There's got to be something I can do,’ Antoshi thought, rhythmically clenching his fists. ‘I shouldn't be here doing nothing. I should be out there looking for him, but … what if I can't? What if I never find him? What can I do?!’

He slammed his fists down on the counter in frustration, causing an audible bang. He immediately got a hold of himself, looking around to see if anyone noticed the noise. He slumped back down into his seat with a heavy sigh. He rested his elbows on the table, burying his face in both hands, trying to simmer down. He had no one to talk to, no one to confide in, no one to console him. Holding it together was quickly becoming a painful endeavor.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Jalyn drove into the lot behind a large food market, parking by the service entrance. A handful of rats in a nearby dumpster, including some Rattata and Raticate, scattered as she and Matt both got out of the car.

“I'm still pissed we're bossed around by Chad,” he said, as he shut the door. “That guy is such an uptight prick.”

Jalyn rolled her eyes, leading Matt to the market's back door. “Well, it doesn't matter what you think. He's our boss. He reports to the Boss. So, if you don't want to end up in a shallow ditch, you'll deal with him being your boss.”

“Whatever,” he replied, disinterested.

Jalyn rapped on the door in a specific rhythm. A metal slat slid open, revealing a pair of menacing eyes.

“Yeah?” a gruff voice asked on the other side.

“Delivery,” she said.

“Password,” the man replied.

“What's today, Tuesday?” she asked, looking over at Matt. He nodded in response. “Uhh, origami … paper crane?”

“It's 'fold an origami paper crane,' Jalyn,” the man behind the door angrily replied. “Get it right next time or get lost.”

The slat slid shut. Jalyn scoffed. “You already know who the hell we are, Doorman,” she muttered under the sound of a motor rolling up the nearby shutter. She got back into the car, driving it in while Matt casually followed inside on foot.

The motor whirred again as the shutter door closed behind them. They were in a large loading dock. The air was stale, musty, and painfully quiet.

Jalyn got out of the car just before a man in a pristine black three-piece suit emerged, strolling up to them with perfect posture. He wore an expensive watch, his dark brown hair neatly slicked back, a fresh-cut rose set in his breast pocket. He was flanked by a large, muscular man — the 'Doorman' that Jalyn spoke to. Matt rolled his eyes, leaning against the hood of the car with his arms crossed.

“I certainly hope that's a delivery for me,” the man in the expensive suit remarked. His voice carried a distinct upper-class accent.

“Chad,” Jalyn greeted him with surprise in her voice. “You're … here today.”

“I am, indeed,” he replied, smiling, his teeth pearly white. He snapped his fingers and pointed to the trunk. “Open it, Doorman.”

Jalyn tossed the keys to the larger man. Doorman headed over to the trunk, unlocking it, but keeping it mostly closed.

“Matthew!” he exclaimed, gasping and holding out his hands. “It's such a surprise to see you here! If I recall correctly, you were ordered to take a nice, relaxing vacation in Cinnabar.” Matt pursed his lips and nervously glanced away. “I find it strange that you would … ignore a direct order like that. You wouldn't want me to think you were insubordinate, would you?”

“No!” Matt quickly replied. “It's just … I—I was helping Jalyn with this new delivery. That's why we're here.”

Chad's eyes lit up. “Ah, interesting! So, my two underlings, what have you got for me today? I should hope it's something worth my time.”

“A Typhlosion,” Jalyn replied. “A strong one, at that.”

Chad raised his eyebrows in pleasant surprise. “Really? Very intriguing. Much better than the unimpressive delivery of three little Spoink you gave us a few days ago.” Chad sauntered over to the back of the car. Doorman promptly lifted up the lid of the trunk. Chad's eyes widened in surprise. “Well, this is quite the turn of events,” he remarked.

Matt and Jalyn followed to look at their prized catch. What they saw shocked them.

There was no prized catch. Fireball had vanished.

An enormous feeling of dread surged through every vein in their bodies. Both of them shut their eyes in unison. They had both witnessed Chad perform horrible acts of violence towards those who had failed him. The next words they spoke were going to be the difference between life and death. Jalyn swallowed nervously.

“Chad,” Jalyn spoke up. “I'm telling you, there—” Chad turned and slapped her with the back of his hand hard enough to cause her to stumble back.

Shut it,” he sternly commanded. He had a bitter expression on his face, sharply contrasting his previous cordial tone.

“Hey, come on—” Matt began to speak. Chad cut his cold, glaring eyes at him, causing Matt to immediately pipe down. Doorman stood beside Chad, crossing his beefy arms over his chest, staring down at Matt as if to also tell him not to get involved.

Jalyn turned away, scowling angrily, holding the side of her face with a trembling hand. She quickly stood up straight and stared at him with a calm expression.

“Don't you dare give me some meaningless excuse, you street rat,” Chad venomously said. Jalyn bit her tongue. “I took you in out of the kindness of my heart, and I expect you not to screw with me. Is that clear!?

“Yes, sir,” the two replied in unison before nervously glancing at each other.

Chad recomposed himself, straightening his suit, glancing at the back of the hand he struck her with. He folded his arms behind his back, slowly pacing back and forth for a few moments, looking at them both. The pair were intensely serious, yet with just a small amount of worry and prostration in their eyes. It was just what Chad wanted to see from his lackeys. He hummed curiously, studying their faces before deciding to speak again.

“Now, I'm going to ask you both a very simple question, and the two of you will simultaneously give me a very simple 'yes' or 'no' when I finish speaking. … Were you lying to me when you told me you had a Typhlosion?”

“No,” they both replied, quickly.

He hummed again, staring at them intensely, tapping his fingers against his lips. The two of them were sweating bullets and starting to tremble in fear. Chad forced them to wait for a short while in motionless silence until he finally cleared his throat.

“Well, despite the fact that you two have routinely been the most pathetic underlings I've ever had, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt this time. Honestly, I don't care if there really was a Typhlosion in this trunk. If there was, however, I would highly suggest that the two of you go back into the city — right now — and recover it within twenty-four hours. No more excuses — just results. If you don't procure a Typhlosion for me by then, well, … I'd suggest that the two of you never show your faces here again. Should that be the case, pray that no one else from this organization ever finds you for the rest of your miserable lives. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

“Yes, sir!” they firmly replied.

He looked at the two of them with a menacing glare, before smiling and clasped his hands together. “Very good! That's the team spirit that I admire!” he shook back the sleeve of his suit to glance at his watch. “You have twenty-four hours, staring now. Off you go now!”

The two of them immediately marched into the car before Jalyn turned the engine over. Chad walked over and stood before them at the front of the car.

“Oh, and Jalyn? Matthew?” he said. They both looked up at him with terrified gazes. “Remember: Nobody ever lies to Team Rocket and lives.” The duo nervously nodded in acknowledgment before Chad trilled his fingers on the hood of the car playfully. “Drive safely now!” he said, with a pleasant smile and a wave.

Jalyn waited for Doorman to open the motorized door for them. She quickly backed out into the parking lot and sped away. Chad's expression turned bitter again as the door rolled closed.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

“Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Jalyn screeched at Matt as they drove down the busy streets. “You idiot! How the hell could you not notice that Typhlosion escaped?!”

“Me? What about you!? You were right with me the whole time!” Jalyn smacked her hands against the steering wheel. Matt held a hand over his forehead. “Ohh, crap. We're dead. We're so dead! We're never going to find him — this city is huge!”

“Shut up, okay?!” she replied. “I'm already on edge as it is and I don't need you freaking out next to me. … Now, let's think about this. When could he have gotten away from us?”

“I don't know, uh, … we would've noticed the shift in weight if he just ducked out while we were driving.”

“So, when were we not driving?”

Matt's eyes lit up. “At Jeff's house!”

“And that's where we start.” Jalyn turned at the next intersection, picking up speed. Her expression suddenly became bitterly cold. “I swear, I'm gonna put this Typhlosion down if it comes to it. Chad can make a Typhlosion rug out of him or something but I am not going back there empty-handed.”

Matt was surprised by her remarks. He found them particularly out of character for her. She had always been cross, short-tempered, and sometimes unbearable, but never brutal — that was Chad's disposition. He wondered just how deeply Chad's earlier remarks had affected her. Chad had never spoken down to her like that before.

He glanced at the glove compartment where that handgun rested. Thoughts of what she may end up doing with it swirled around in his head.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

By the time evening set in, Fireball had been wandering between buildings and along the quieter side streets of Viridian City for hours. He panted, drained from the constant moving — and from hunger. For once, eating took a backseat in his mind. Getting back to Antoshi was his top priority. He also needed to keep away from the duo that took him, though he wanted to stay away from humans in general. Antoshi was the only human that could understand him. He was sure that a Trainer would attempt to capture him, thinking he was a wild Typhlosion.

'Maybe I should look for the police,' he thought. '… I'll bet that's what Antoshi would do. He's probably already done that. But, what would they do with me? Would they just lock me up somewhere or would they try to find Antoshi for me?'

He groaned, totally exhausted, falling flat on his belly in an alleyway. He rested for a few minutes to catch his breath.

'This city is one a big, fat, giant maze. Man, I really wish Antoshi was here. He always knows what to do. … Then again, if he was here, I wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. … He's probably running all over the city looking for me. I know he's worrying about me. I have to find him!' He rolled over onto his back, staring up at the sparse, vibrant orange clouds in the purplish evening sky. 'I'm so dizzy. I just hope these buildings stop spinning soon …'

He grit his teeth, sitting up. 'I'll make it back to you, buddy. I know I will. After that, we're going to find that thief and get our badges back!'

Fireball rose to his hind feet just before hearing the sound of a car engine. A bright spotlight from the street started to illuminate the alleyway. He panicked and pressed his back against a nearby wall, keeping out of its sight.

“Fireball?!” an unknown man's voice called to him.

Fireball's heart raced, swallowing nervously. 'Who is that?' he thought. 'How do they know my name? Are they working for that thief?'

The spotlight faded away as the car drove off. He peered out from his nook, making sure no one was around. Once it was safe to move, he continued further on his solo campaign.

Chapter 5 »
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Winter can't come soon enough
So, this chapter is a tale of two different flavors, essentially. For most of the first half of the chapter I really had no idea where you planning to go with things and it read as more-or-less of a retread of stuff from previous chapters (excluding the gym battle). Ferry-riding, taking in sights rather enthusiastically, and stopping to get food. Also, the way some of the narration was written contributed heavily to the feeling of sameyness. For example, the word "town" is used in every single sentence in the starting bit describing Palette Town, which got particularly redundant for me. The major difference between the first half of this chapter and chapters 1 and 2 was this thief. And I will say I have sort of mixed opinions of him. There's an almost Team Rocket Trio feel to his pursuit of Antoshi. But the thing is that I have a really hard time believe a guy (even a drifter) would tail a kid across a large body of water, through another town, and into the woods just to get an opportunity to steal a wallet. If there had been some sort of indication/narrative reason why he was explicitly targeting Antoshi, it probably wouldn't have rubbed me the wrong way. Were the phone calls the guy took supposed to be important in that regard?

The second half of the chapter is where things pick up, however. First off, you shed some light on just how far after the events of the Kanto games we're talking about. I'm surprised things aren't a bit more high-tech but this is the Pokémon world, so it's not a big deal. More importantly, there's the revelation that Antoshi may be psychic(?), or at least have some sort of latent, ESP abilities. I can't help but think of Ness for some reason. Maybe because Creatures, Inc. made Earthbound before Pokémon? What I like about the revelation is just how confused Antoshi is by it and how age-appropriate his description is. It's very vague and extremely simplistic, which is what you'd expect a child to do when trying to explain psychic powers. And then there's another nightmare with a bit of a horror twinge to it that ends up leading into the thief actually turning successful. And that ends on the cliffhanger of Antoshi losing track of Fireball and stumbling into Viridian all alone. Which, yeah, should be pretty terrifying to a kid. Even a well-traveled one.

That's all I've got this time around.


Lost but Seeking
Right, new chapter! I'm just going to respond to a couple things you mentioned into your previous response before moving on to this most recent chapter.

I will admit that skipping over the quiz may be a misstep. At the same time, I didn't want to drag it on forever so that I could get to other critical plot points in the story.
Nah, I think skipping it would have been fine. Like, either it's enough of a challenge to reveal something about Antoshi's character, in which case you should include at least some of it (two or three questions would be plenty), or it's no real obstacle, in which case you might as well axe it entirely unless it's serving another purpose (like comic relief).

The way I see it, Pokémon are more akin to real-world animals — especially due to their inspirations from real animals. There are some with human-level or even genius-level intelligence, but it's very rare. Pokémon in general do not have an issue with being inside Poké Balls, especially with a Trainer they're close to.
That's fine, and how a lot of writers deal with the issue. The problem is more that we haven't really seen that going on in the story itself. Like, if you want to write pokémon as animalistic, that's cool, but all the pokémon we've met so far haven't been! It's not that I think there's an inherent problem with pokémon in pokéballs, but I think you do need to be careful about making sure the portrayal you're actually writing down is consistent with the view you have in your head.

. I understand where you're coming from, but I also wanted the very start to feel really relaxed and laid-back, getting more familiar with the two mains. Because, without spoiling anything, it's going to get a lot more hectic later. I wanted that sort of 'calm beginnings'/'calm before the storm' feel to not just this story but the series in general. Don't forget, this is only the first story in what I plan to be a series of multiple stories.
That's fine, and while I'm certainly a fan of hectic, I think slower starts are fine, too! For me the issue isn't so much that the beginning of this 'fic is slow, but rather that it's repetitive. The same kind of stuff happens over and over in the first four chapters: getting on boats... getting off of boats... getting stuff to eat. It comes across a bit wheel-spinny to me. Your early chapters can certainly be low on action and contain a lot of quiet moments, but you still want these to be varied and interesting and have a clear point.

Anyway, on to this chapter explicitly. It does open with more of the same in Antoshi and Fireball catching the ferry to Pallet, various food-related tribulations, etc. The addition of the pickpocket doesn't really do much, because again it's not something that appears to threaten Antoshi at all; like, he loses his wallet, his mom sends him some more money, big whoop. (I didn't realize the badges were in there, which would have made it at least a little more tense!) By the end of the chapter there's more a sense that the thief may be part of something larger (all those phone calls0 that could go interesting places, but it takes a while to get there.

I also agree with Ambyssin that it seems unrealistic that a pickpocket would follow someone to an entirely different city just to get at their wallet. It might help to show exactly why the thief was so convinced that getting that wallet would be worth it. What exactly does he think Antoshi has that he wants so badly, and why does he think Antoshi has it?

I did like the look at the Red statue and the sense that Pallet's become sort of a tourist town trading on the glory from the Red/Oak days way back when. For me, the real interesting bits are seeing how your setting differs from the ones in the games and anime--if anything, I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of Pallet! I felt like the story moved on from it rather quickly.

It was also nice to see the plot picking up a little bit towards the end of the chapter. Presumably nobody knows about Antoshi's abilities but him and now Fireball, so the thief thing is unrelated, but I imagine he won't be able to keep them a secret for too terribly long. And once the secret's out, that's when things are going to get sticky for Antoshi and Fireball, I imagine.

It will also be interesting to see how Antoshi operates without Fireball. I don't imagine they're going to be separated for very long, but it's always fun to see characters thrown out of their depth and forced to work with constraints they're not used to. Onward!


Imagination Station
Chapter 5

Antoshi had gone outside multiple times to walk around and get some fresh air. He became more and more tempted to look for Fireball himself each time. Ultimately, however, he trusted Jenny and the other officers. He held on to waning faith that they truly would find Fireball. The waiting was wearing on him, but it was what he relegated himself to.

Back in the break room, Antoshi was losing what composure he had left by nightfall. It was a harsh test of his fortitude, and so far he was failing. Being separated for so long, he was worried constantly for Fireball's safety. Was he simply lost or … had the worst come of him?

The boy passed the time by sitting at the same table, setting his backpack down, and reorganizing its contents. In doing so, he eventually pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball. It was so weathered after nearly a decade of wear. The fading red paint on the top half had cracked and chipped in places. There were small dents, dirt, and scrapes all over it. As he studied it, he recalled the times he had to use it when he and Fireball first started their adventure together. He smiled, remembering how uncontrollably rambunctious he was as a Quilava. He sighed, setting the ball on the table in its minimized form.

His leg shook up and down, unable to keep still. He sat in boredom, withdrawing his compendium and quietly skimming over the maps within. He paid extra attention to the map of Viridian, ending up memorizing most of the city's layout by the time he stored it away again.

He folded his arms on the table to rest his head. He was tired and hungry, unable to sleep. His lips briefly curled into a tiny smile as he thought about all the times Fireball complained about hunger.

‘Of course! Every minute of every day is great with my best buddy around,’ he recalled Fireball say back on the ferry.

His heart sank, sliding further into misery. The waiting and not knowing was starting to deeply affect his psyche. He got up, gazing out the window with a forlorn look in his eyes. He watched people walking and driving around, some of them with their Pokémon. He envisioned himself and Fireball in their places, wishing he could be as carefree as they were.

He rhythmically clenched his fists again as they rest on the counter, his mind filling with anger and despair. Officers continued to wander in and out of the room. He noticed them at times, hoping the next individual to walk in would be Fireball.

Jenny entered the room, making her presence known by knocking on the door frame.

“Hey there,” she said with a gentle smile, trying to keep cordial with him.

“Hi,” he replied, distantly. He briefly glanced over to her, but it was as though he wasn't looking at her. His gaze was somewhere else entirely.

“I just wanted to update you and let you know that we now have over a dozen officers searching for Fireball.” Her attempt to keep his hopes up fell on deaf ears. She cleared her throat. “Would you … like something to eat?”

“I'm not hungry,” he muttered.

“All right. Well, how about I get you a blanket so that you—”

“I don't want a blanket!” he snapped at her in frustration before shoving a display of coffee condiments off the counter. “I just want Fireball back!!”

Jenny was shocked at first. There was an obvious sorrow in his eyes that hid behind his bitter expression.

“What's going on?” Robert asked, as he came into the room.

“It's okay,” she held an arm out, keeping the officer back.

Antoshi looked down at the scattered objects, becoming unsettled with himself for reacting so irritably. He looked down at his trembling hands. “I—I'm sorry,” he said, quietly, his expression suddenly wracked by grief, “I— …” He dashed past them, heading out the front door.

They both watched the boy sit down on the steps outside. “It's been twelve hours,” Jenny said to Robert, with a heavy sigh. “Every minute without his friend, waiting and wondering where he is, … I know how agonizing that is.”

“You think it's the Rockets, don't you?”

“Mm,” she nodded. “It's got all the same earmarks. Some innocent Trainer's Pokémon goes missing, they don't know where it went, they never see it again. We've scoured every inch of where he lost his Typhlosion and haven't found anything except some shoe prints and Typhlosion paw prints on the ground in a nearby alley. A Typhlosion can't be hard to spot. I wouldn't be surprised if this was some crafty scheme by the Rockets to lure his Typhlosion away so they could capture it. They don't care in the least about Pokémon, they only care about their profit. I'm just … sick to my stomach whenever I think of the horrible things they do to peoples' beloved friends.”

He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I know Archie's always smiling down on you for all the work you do to help those Trainers.”

“He is. That was … a long time ago, and I want to believe I've come to grips with it. Yet, every time it happens to someone else, I just feel those scars all over again. I feel it through the look in their eyes whenever they realize … their best friend isn't coming back. …” Jenny closed her eyes and turned away.

“I'll go get us some more coffee,” he quietly said.

“All right.” She sighed again as he left her company.

She continued watching Antoshi for a few moments. She reached a hand out to open the door, but quickly stopped herself. After letting her hand fall away, she decided it best to give him some space for the time being. He was more restrained that she was, and she saw strength in him that he didn't see in himself. He would surely overcome this. She nodded to herself before heading back to her office.

Outside, Antoshi couldn't stop shaking as his emotions boiled over. He had no idea what to do or where to go anymore. The reality that he may never see Fireball again was sinking in. He breathed heavily, staring at the concrete below him, eyes welled with tears.

“This is my fault,” he quietly muttered to himself. “There was so much more I could've done. … I should've paid more attention, I—I should've noticed there was someone following us. I should've been more forceful when I told you not to run off. I shouldn't have stopped to help that lady. I should've— … I should've been faster! I'm a terrible Trainer and a horrible friend!”

He clenched his eyes shut, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I'm sorry, Fireball,” he whispered, before huffing and sobbing into his hands. “Please come back …”

As sadness overwhelmed him, his entire body became enveloped in the soft, transparent glow of the mysterious red light. With his eyes closed, he remained unaware of it. None of the people walking by seemed to witness the spectacle unfolding either.

“I can't be strong, Fireball, not without you here with me …”

The deeper he sank into heartache, the brighter the light became. It began to fluctuate around him until seemingly igniting, giving off the impression of a flickering red flame that swelled much more intensely than any of its previous appearances. Its very presence invigorated him with energy. That extra energy only served to help intensify his sobbing.

Once Antoshi finally calmed down, so did the mysterious light until it dissipated. He took a few deep breaths and wiped the tears from his eyes. He huffed sharply, getting back to his feet and attempting to recompose himself. He headed back inside the station, having no place else to go.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

A short time later, after Antoshi settled back into resting his head on the table in the break room, Jenny came in to check on him.

“Antoshi?” she spoke up, grabbing his attention. He looked up and acknowledged her with a casual glance before looking away. She sighed, taking a seat across the table from him. “Antoshi — I know I've been keeping you at arm's length. I was staying professional and following protocol. Still, … I want to talk to you on a personal level.”

Antoshi's attention perked up. He kept a curious gaze locked on her, sitting up straight.

“I'm not supposed to do this,” she continued, “but I can't help but empathize with how much pain you're in. I've … been in the same position you're in now.”

“You have?” he asked, softly. She nodded.

“I joined the force about five years ago. Back then, I was given a partner Pokémon — Archie, my Arcanine. He was my best friend, and I loved him so much. One night, he and I were sent to investigate a break-in at a Poké Ball factory. When we got there, Archie heard a noise and took off. I tried to call him back, but he wouldn't listen. I went in after him, but … he was gone. Some other officers showed up and we looked everywhere for him. I was overwhelmed with grief, but, like you, I was determined to find him. Months passed, and eventually … I gave up. About a year later, I got a call about a lost Pokémon in bad shape wandering through the city.”

She shut her eyes, becoming visibly uneasy. Her voice began to tremble.

“When I got there, I found out it … was Archie. He'd been … so horribly injured beyond recognition, I thought it wasn't him at first. I got him into the car and took him to the Pokémon Center, but … by then, there wasn't anything they could do. It was too late for him.” She sniffled and let out a shaky sigh, swiftly wiping the tears from her closed eyes.

After taking a deep breath, she looked squarely at Antoshi with a strong, determined expression. Her tone became firm and serious. “That is why I know what you're feeling. That's why I promised that I won't stop looking for your friend, because no one deserves to go through the pain that I endured. I know that, on some level, you felt like I haven't cared. … I care more deeply than you know.”

Antoshi was left speechless, maintaining eye contact with her as Jenny stood up from the table.

“Never give up,” she added. “Never forget how much you love your best friend.”

She straightened her uniform before leaving the room. Antoshi gazed out the window. Jenny's poignant speech gave him much to reflect on.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Fireball groaned, awaking to the sound of a nearby train slowly screeching to a halt. Under the cover of darkness, he had collapsed from exhaustion behind a train station. He sat up, dazed and incredibly hungry. He got up onto his hind feet and began jogging away, determined to get back to Antoshi. Some of the people at the train station gasped and muttered to each other as the large Typhlosion emerged from the darkness and fled past them.

Fireball panted nervously, noticing every set of human and Pokémon eyes that glanced his way. He desperately avoided contact with everyone.

"Psst!" came a small voice, as he passed by a dumpster. "Hey, wait!" Fireball turned around and saw a Rattata standing on its hind legs, gazing up at him with its jaw agape. "Wow, you're a tall one!" the Rattata remarked.

"Thanks," Fireball replied with a weak smile. "I—I gotta keep moving."

"Wait, you look hungry! Would you like some food?"

"Food?" Fireball mused, in wonder.

"Food!" a handful of Rattata exclaimed as they burst out from some nearby trash bags.

"Wow," Fireball said, following the first Rattata as it led him over to the others, "there sure are a lot of you."

"Of course!" the first Rattata said. "We Rattata always stick together. We also don't mind helping the occasional passing stranger — especially if they look like they're in need."

"Help yourself!" one of the little ones said, hopping out of a bag that spilled its contents on the ground. Fireball was unpleasantly surprised.

"Dumpster food?" Fireball asked. "I—I don't know …"

"Trust me, it's good!" the first Rattata replied, stuffing its jowls. "Besides, what else are homeless folks like us supposed to get?"

"Well, I'm not really homeless," Fireball said, sitting down by them. "I'm lost from my Trainer." His remark earned a collective 'aww' from the others.

"You got lost?" the first one asked in concern. "Wait, your Trainer's not one of those jerks that abandons Pokémon, right?"

"No! No, no, he's a really wonderful Trainer. He's my best friend, actually." The others again collectively 'aww'ed in response. Fireball chuckled. "See, I messed up and I ran off from him when I shouldn't have. I ended up getting kidnapped by these two creeps." The others gasped.

"Kidnapped?" the first Rattata asked with a worried expression. "They weren't guys with shirts that had a big letter 'R' on them, were they?"

"No, they didn't have any letters on their clothes." The others sighed in relief. "But, when they had me in the trunk of their car, I remember them mentioning something about 'Team Rocket'."

"Team Rocket?!" the others all exclaimed before hissing, and arching their backs.

"They're the lowest of the low," the first Rattata said. "They're nothing but poachers that kidnap Pokémon and force them into slavery, sell them off for cash, … or worse. Just thinking about what they've done to our brothers and sisters makes my blood boil."

"I'm really sorry to hear that," Fireball replied, quietly.

"It's okay, friend. I'm just glad you got away from them. Anyway, you seem like a stand-up guy, Mr. Typhlosion. Why don't you let us help you find your Trainer?"

Fireball's face lit up. "Really? You'd do that for me?"

"Sure thing! We may be small, but, brother, we got a whole network of friends and family all over the city."

The Rattata scampered up a nearby gutter to get on top of a building. He took a deep, mighty breath. "Hey, everybody~!" he shouted as loudly as he could.

For a moment, there was no response, leaving Fireball confused. He watched as ears, eyes, and snouts quickly began to pop up in every nook, cranny, and shadow. Fireball shouted in amazement as dozens, if not hundreds, of Rattata and Raticate scampered over and surrounded them.

The first Rattata hopped down and stood next to Fireball. "This here is our new friend! What's your name?"

"I'm Fireball," he replied, with a gentle wave to the crowd.

"This is Fireball!"

The others cheered raucously. Fireball chuckled nervously.

"Fireball here has recently managed to escape the clutches of Team Rocket!" The crowd hissed and jeered in response to the name. "I know, I know. But, like many other friends and family of ours, he's now become separated from his beloved Trainer. We have to help him reunite with his best friend!" The crowd cheered once more. "Now, Fireball, tell us what your Trainer looks like so we can spread the word."

"Okay," Fireball said, standing up on his hind legs, clearing his throat before raising his voice. "He's a boy about … this tall," he held a paw out while the entire crowd nodded, "he has blond hair, and he's wearing a black shirt and shorts. Um, … oh, and he also has a big, red backpack."

"You heard him, folks! You know what to do! Let's move out, spread the word, and help our new friend!"

The crowd of rat Pokémon dispersed at once, chattering and squeaking. The first Rattata sighed happily, sitting back on his pile of garbage.

"You can rest easy now, my friend," he said. "Just relax here with us and we'll find your boy in no time at all."

Fireball's eyes welled up with tears, sniffling. "Thank you so much, I—" he stopped as his eyes suddenly spotted something in the trash. "Are those … waffles?"

"Oh, yeah, help yourse—" Fireball dove in and eagerly began to scarf down the food. The Rattata's laughed in amusement.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

In the wee hours of the morning, the Viridian police station was quieter and less populated than in the daytime. Officer Jenny visited the break room to check on Antoshi. She found him asleep at one of the tables, having finally succumbed to his exhaustion. She brought a blanket for him, gently draping it over his back. She noticed he was holding Fireball's Poké Ball.

‘No kid deserves to have to go through this,’ she thought.

She genuinely cared for his well-being, unwilling to go home until her job was done. But, Jenny's own lack of sleep starting to catch up with her. She covered a yawn with the back of her hand. For the time being, she had several other officers on the case in her stead, allowing her time to rest. She headed for the station's small sleeping quarters to do just that.

A few minutes later, a Rattata curiously scampered around the outside of the police station. It sniffed the air, squeaking and standing on its hind legs. It made its way along the side of the building. There, it hopped up into each of the windowsills. It stopped once it reached the one outside the break room.

The Rattata's eyes widened in surprise, staring at the sleeping boy within. It swiftly hopped down, finding the nearest storm drain. It chattered and squeaked in excitement, its voice echoing to its kin below ground. The Rattata sprinted back over to the windowsill, where it tapped and scratched on the glass relentlessly.

Antoshi groaned softly, rousing from his sleep. He looked over and saw the frantic Rattata in the window.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Jalyn and Matt continued searching aimlessly in their drive around the city. They'd been on the move constantly, making only brief stops for snacks, to gas up the car, and to use the restroom. The endless grind felt more and more hopeless with each passing hour of their time-limited search. The pressure was mounting. The creeping sense of impending failure was wearing on them.

The city streets were incredibly quiet at such an early hour. Matt yawned loudly, leaning against the inside of the door. Both of their eyes were heavy, but Jalyn remained adamant in her mission.

“Come on, Jalyn. We've been looking all night. Can we just take a break for a while?”

“You can rest when you're dead,” she replied, coldly.

Matt scoffed, closing his eyes and leaning back in his seat to doze off.

When they turned at the next light, Jalyn spotted a single black and white car heading slowly in the opposite direction. The car had a manually moving spotlight that was pointed at the nearby buildings and sidewalks.

She gasped, recognizing it as a police vehicle. She swerved suddenly, ducking into a nearby residential area to stay out of sight. Matt shouted in surprise, jarred awake by the sudden turn.

“What the hell was that?!” he snapped.

“There was a cop nearby,” she replied, keeping her eyes locked on her rear-view mirror. “I'm sure that Typhlosion's Trainer probably reported it missing by now. I don't know what they're looking for. Hopefully, it's not the Typhlosion — or us.”

Matt sighed in frustration as they slowly drove around the neighborhood for a short while.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Fireball and his new friends sat together near the dumpster, chatting and laughing. They were interrupted by a Rattata sprinting toward them.

"We found him!" the little Rattata squeaked.

Fireball and the others gasped in elation.

"I told you it was just a matter of time, friend!" the first Rattata said. "Come on, we'll follow our guide here to lead us to him!"

The messenger started to scamper off. Fireball and the other Rattata followed behind on all fours.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Matt and Jalyn continued quietly drifting through the narrow roads of the dimly-lit neighborhood. Jalyn wasn't convinced they were out of sight of the cops just yet.

“Come on, Jalyn,” Matt said. “That cop has to be long gone by now.”

“Shut your stupid mouth!” she snapped. “I'm driving!”

Matt seethed, folding his arms across his chest. He idly gazed at the passing houses and side streets, eventually spotting a small group of Rattata going by under the light of street lamps. Accompanying them was a much larger Typhlosion.

His eyes nearly popped out of his head in disbelief. “Wait a minute!” he shouted with such panic that it caused her to slam the brakes. A dog nearby started barking, startled by his shout. “Jalyn — there he is!

She looked at where his shaking hand was pointing. She internally screamed when she, too, saw Fireball.

“Okay, … okay, hang on,” she said, her voice trembling. She turned off her headlights and slowly drove to the next road that Fireball was heading to.

“What are you waiting for?!” he exclaimed. “Let's get him!”

“Relax, you idiot!” she rebuked him, keeping her voice low. “You want people here to wake up and call the cops on us?! Shut up and don't scare him away! Just … be cool.”

The two kept their elation in check as Jalyn drove at the same pace Fireball was moving. Fireball and the others did not notice the car following them in the distance.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Antoshi curiously stood in front of the window where the tiny Rattata was. The Rattata hopped up and down, motioning for him to come outside. The boy was confused.

“What are you trying to tell me, little guy?” Antoshi asked.

The Rattata hunched over and huffed in exasperation. It stood on its hind legs, holding its forepaws out like claws. It made a stern expression, turning its head and breathing tiny puffs of fire with little roars.

Antoshi furrowed his brow for a moment before his eyes went wide in shock. “Fireball?” he asked in disbelief. “You know where Fireball is?!” The Rattata nodded, squeaking in excitement.

That was all Antoshi needed to know. He shoved Fireball's Poké Ball into his pocket and made a mad dash for the front door. The officers in the station were taken by surprise as he ran off as fast as he could.

“Hey, kid!” one of them shouted. “Wait a second! Where are you going?” He didn't answer, shoving the door open and breaking out into a sprint once he got outside.

He met up with the little Rattata at the side of the building. “Hurry, let's find Fireball!” he said. The Rattata nodded before taking off with Antoshi in tow.

At the same time, one of the officers headed to the station's sleeping quarters to inform Jenny.

“Jenny!” he said, shaking her gently. “Jenny, wake up!”

She groaned as she opened her eyes, looking at him. “Huh? … What is it?”

“It's the kid! He went flying out of here like a bat outta hell!” Her eyes went wide.

She quickly pulled the blanket away and got out of bed, still in her full uniform. She slipped her shoes on before the two officers headed for the front door.

“One minute, he was sleeping,” the officer went on, “the next minute, he was out the door like he was on a mission!”

“I have to go after him,” she said, sternly. “It's too dark and too dangerous for him to be running around the city. I know what he's feeling, and I know he wants to find his friend, but he's not thinking rationally right now. I owe it to him to keep him safe.”

“All right. Be careful.”

Jenny hurried out the door, climbing into her police cruiser. She backed out and peeled onto the streets, trying to find Antoshi as quickly as possible.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Once Fireball and his new friends reached the darker outskirts of the neighborhood, they were met with a tall, long wooden fence.

"Let's go around!" the first Rattata said.

They noticed a car's headlights suddenly turn on, pointed at them. The bright lights temporarily blinded them. The tires screeched as Jalyn slammed the accelerator down with a crazed look in her eyes.

All of the Rattata panicked and scattered. Fireball attempted to jump out of the way, but ended up being struck hard by the car. He screamed in pain, rolling over the hood. He launched off the windshield, cracking it, and landed hard on the asphalt before rolling to a stop.

Jalyn brought the car to a screeching halt and parked it. She and Matt couldn't get out of the car fast enough. The Rocket duo cautiously approached him, both of them bringing out a Poké Ball from their pockets to hold at their sides. They both gasped when he stirred to life.

“Damn,” Matt remarked. “He's still as resilient as ever.”

Fireball exhaled shakily, his entire body throbbing with pain. He set his dislocated jaw with a grunt, staggering to his hind feet. He glared at the pair, one eye bloodied and closed shut, snarling at them in rage. The fires on his upper back came alight, prepared for battle. Fireball wasn't content to attack people, but for the two callous ones before him, he made an exception.

“You're worth less than nothing to me,” Jalyn scornfully said. “You don't scare me. Now, be a good little pet and come along quietly. Otherwise, I will kill you.”

Fireball growled, baring his teeth. In an instant, he opened his maw and exhaled a scorching stream of fire at them. They shouted in surprise, diving to the side. When his attack petered out, they looked at each other, before looking at Fireball.

“Fine, you stupid beast!” Jalyn said. She and Matt each brandished a Poké Ball from their pockets. “You want to battle? We can battle.”

"Hey!" the first Rattata exclaimed. "Leave our friend alone!" The small group of Rattata all screeched and charged at the pair.

“What the hell is this?!” Matt shouted, he and Jalyn yelping as the Rattata bit and clawed at their ankles.

The duo threw their Poké Balls out which opened of their own accord. The streams of light that burst forth touched the ground and took shape. Matt's Spiritomb and Jalyn's Malamar stood silently. Both Pokémon had cold, menacing glares. Malamar looked down at the group of Rattata. There was a terrible killing intent in the Malamar's eyes that terrified them to their core. The Rattata fled fearfully.

“Ha! Stupid little pests!” Matt exclaimed, before turning his attention to Fireball. “Spiritomb, use Shadow Sneak on that Typhlosion!”

Spiritomb swiftly disappeared into the asphalt, reappearing in the form of a dark shadow behind Fireball. His uninjured eye went wide from the ominous feeling of dread he felt before Spiritomb struck him from behind.

“Malamar, use Psycho Cut!” Jalyn commanded.

Malamar's finlike hands glowed blue before running at Fireball, who was still reeling from the previous attack. Malamar swept both hands forward, creating a crescent-shaped blade of energy. Fireball shouted in pain as the strike staggered him backwards. He fell to all fours, glaring at them. Trembling in pain, he slowly rose back up on his hind feet again.

'Antoshi …' Fireball thought. 'I have to … get back to Antoshi. I'm not going to make him worry about me any longer. I have to beat these creeps, but I … can't do this without him.'

“Now, Malamar — Hypnosis!”

Malamar's eyes became a mesmerizing swirl of colors just like before. Fireball was far weaker at that point than the first time they used Hypnosis on him. It didn't take long before he fell forward, unconscious.

The Rockets sighed in relief, recalling their Pokémon into the confines of their Poké Balls. Jalyn got back into the car in order to back up closer to Fireball. She popped the trunk, both of them working quickly to lift the heavy Typhlosion up once again.

Just then, panting heavily, Antoshi and the single Rattata appeared at the scene just in time to see the Rockets struggling as they rolled Fireball into the trunk.

“Hey!” he shouted, his voice high-pitched from exhaustion. The pair were shocked as they looked over at him. Antoshi sprinted toward them. The Rattata ran with him, chattering angrily. “Let him go! Now!”

“Oh, you've got to be joking,” Matt remarked in disbelief. “That's the kid I stole the wallet from! That's his Typhlosion!”

“Damn it,” Jalyn muttered as she slammed the trunk closed. “Get in the car, Stupid!”

Jalyn no longer cared about the upholstery as the duo hopped into the car. Antoshi's rage crested upon seeing them trying to flee. They had already taken Fireball from him once — he wasn't going to let it happen again. His adrenaline carried him as fast as he could while Jalyn turned the ignition.

“You're not getting away!” Antoshi shouted.

Jalyn spun the car around, slamming the gas, charging at full speed into the wooden fence that had previously boxed Fireball in. Matt shouted in fear as the boards shattered all around them, damaging the car even further.

“Are you crazy?!” he yelled at her. She didn't answer him, keeping her stern glare forward. She drove up a small grassy incline before getting onto an empty side street.

Antoshi panted as he and the group of Rattatas stepped all over the splintered wood, up the incline, out onto the road just in time to see them speeding off down the road.

“No!!” he shouted in anguish and anger as he they escaped with Fireball. He couldn't run fast enough. His energy was completely spent, falling to his knees in defeat. He'd let them get away.

Fireball was gone — again. He wasn't sure if he'd ever see his best friend again. The police were nowhere nearby. He would have to run all the way back to the station to tell them what happened. By then, it could be too late to do anything.

Antoshi trembled and sobbed, tears welling in his wide eyes. The horrifying end of Jenny's story replayed in his mind. Fireball was likely to meet the same fate. The Rattatas stood by, looking at him with sorrowful gazes. The boy clenched his fists, his eyes, his jaw. He struggled not to cry.

“Fireball …” he whispered. “I … I blew it. I'm sorry. … Please come back. I can't be without you! Please come back! Please come back, Fireball!!”

The rage and sorrow that had been building up inside of him burned like fire in his veins. He shook with anger, weeping in despair. Antoshi suddenly slammed his fists into the concrete sidewalk, cracking it. He screamed at the top of his lungs, unable to hold in his emotions any longer. In a flash, the fiery red light erupted and flared wildly around his body. An incredible rush of adrenaline and vigor surged through him.

The Rattatas were shocked, backing away. They were bewildered at the sight of the glowing flame around him, unsure what to make of it.

Antoshi clenched his teeth, staring at the fleeing car with a vengeful gaze, his normally brown irises glowing bright red. He suddenly noticed the flickering light surrounding him. His expression turned to surprise and curiosity. He looked at his arms and body, patting his chest in disbelief. It was so much more intense than it had ever been before.

Taking a deep breath, he got to his feet and exhaled slowly. All of his previous exhaustion took a back seat while he tapped into an unknown source of power. He had become completely rejuvenated. The mysterious light's very presence reassured him, soothing him with its warmth. Fireball wasn't gone. There was still a chance. He wouldn't let the Rockets take away the most important thing in his life: his family.

With his entire body like an explosive mass of boundless energy, he raced toward the car with an immense second wind. The group of Rattata were too intrigued by the turn of events not to follow him. The boy was so much faster than before, and they had trouble keeping up with him.

As the car quickly rounded a corner, Antoshi did his best to keep them in sight. By the time he turned the same corner, the car had gotten too far from him. He shouted in agony, pushing himself as hard as he could, struggling with all he had to catch up that he suddenly stumbled over his own feet. His arms thrust outward to break his fall, only for him to realize he was not touching the ground yet continued moving forward.

He was flying.

Antoshi let out a shocked cry at his situation, trying to wrap his head around what was happening. The break in concentration caused him to fall face-first onto the street.

He got up with, inexplicably, nary a scratch on him. He huffed with determination, watching the car round another corner in the distance. He took off running once again, fueled by the burning desire to save his best friend. As he hit his stride, he let himself fall forward again and, just as before, he began to fly. He was moving much faster than he could run — fast enough to catch up to the car. He was at a loss for how he was doing it, but remained focused on his target.

The Rattata group gave up on their pursuit. They stayed behind, squeaking, jumping, and cheering for the flying boy.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

At that moment, Officer Jenny was racing in the opposite direction down the same empty street as the two Rockets. Her eyes were focused on the sidewalk, looking for Antoshi. She paid no mind to the two in the passing convertible with the horribly cracked windshield and busted front fender. She gasped and hit the brakes upon finding the young man she was searching for — as he soared over her car.

With her jaw agape, she followed his movements, gazing incredulously out the back window. “No way,” she whispered.

Jenny quickly backed up, spun around, and turned her flashing lights on as she gave chase to the bizarre scene.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

Jalyn stuck to the side streets where there were no other cars around.

“Is that kid still following us?” she asked, as she rounded another corner.

Matt saw nothing in the side-view mirror and nodded to her confidently. “Come on, he's not fast enough to …” he trailed off after seeing a reflection of Antoshi flying behind them. “What the hell?!”

“What?” she asked with immediate concern. “What is it?!”

Matt turned around to confirm the sight of the flying kid. Not only was it so, but Antoshi was quickly gaining on them. He sat forward again, his blank eyes wide, his face pale.

“He … is still following us,” Matt replied, dumbfounded.

She was confused until she glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the same thing he did.

“That-that's impossible!” she screamed. She nearly veered off the road before correcting.

Antoshi was getting closer. Matt continued to stare at him in the side-view mirror, utterly aghast at the sight. He sat quietly for a moment, pondering what to say next.

“Jalyn,” Matt began with a calm, serious tone, “I've … never questioned my life's choices as much as I have in the past twenty-four hours. This — all of this — isn't worth it. The Typhlosion's not worth it, the money's not worth it, my life's not worth it. I can't do it anymore. It's not worth it, it's not worth it. …”

“Pull yourself together, you idiot!” she replied. “We're dead if we don't finish this!”

“We have a flying kid chasing us, Jalyn. All of the mishaps and convenient obstacles along the way — being stopped from nabbing the kid's wallet, Jeff not coming to the door, the Typhlosion escaping, and now this. They're all signs telling me I made a huge mistake. I should've stayed in Cinnabar. I don't care what happens to me now. I'm … I—I'm ready to face my consequences.”

The look in his eyes reaffirmed to her that he'd lost the will to fight.

“Damn you, Matt,” she muttered. She reached over and hit the glove box to pop it open. Its contents shifted around and Antoshi's wallet fell to the floorboard. She grabbed the gun inside and handed it to him.

“Even if you don't care what happens to you,” she said, “I'm begging you to at least care what happens to me, okay? If you want out of this game after this is over, then I promise I'll help you get out. Just do one last thing for me: kill him.”

He gave further thought to his situation, staring at the gun she held against his chest. He closed his eyes, taking the gun with a heavy sigh.

“All this for one kid's wallet,” he reflected aloud.

He turned around, balancing himself while taking aim. The boy was trailing mere meters behind them. The others were not able to see those flames surrounding him or the glow of his eyes.

Antoshi gasped, his eyes going wide with terror as he stared down the gun's barrel. With his life in danger, his irises suddenly glowed brighter and the fiery light around him flickered far more intensely. In an instant, Antoshi's whole world began to move in slow-motion.

His eyesight became precise enough to see the bullet exiting the chamber. It ejected ahead of a burst of fire, followed by a cloud of smoke and tiny, burning cinders of gunpowder. Antoshi pivoted his body to the side with ease, avoiding the trajectory of the bullet by a wide margin.

All Matt witnessed was Antoshi disappearing and reappearing an instant later.

“Wh—what?!” Matt shouted.

“What happened? Did you get him?” Jalyn asked. She glanced in the rear-view mirror. The boy was still giving chase. “You missed?!”

“I— … h—he dodged it!”

“Just keep shooting!”

Matt seethed, firing shot after shot at Antoshi. The boy evaded with the same swiftness each time. He shouted in frustration, chucking the empty gun at him — only to have him dodge that as well.

“Do something!” Jalyn shouted, panicked.

“It's too late,” he replied, slinking back into his seat and hunching over. “It was going to end this way. I should've known it when the universe was working against me to keep from stealing the kid's wallet. I brought this on myself. …”

Jalyn sucked her teeth. There wasn't anything left to say or do to console him.

Both of them shouted in surprise as the car rattled hard as though they were rear-ended. They looked back, watching Antoshi grab onto the car's back bumper. He strained with effort as he pulled the car and dug his heels into the asphalt, gradually slowing the car down.

Jalyn cried out in terror, flooring the gas pedal. The car had already come to a halt. Smoke poured off the screeching tires as it revved and bounced in place. Antoshi's grip was slipping, clamping down so hard on the bumper that it snapped off of the car's frame. The car immediately barreled forward.

Matt and Jalyn screamed as they lost control and crashed into a metal light pole, coming to a sudden stop. The light pole flickered and went out, bent around the car's hood. The two inside were knocked unconscious, faces planted in the deployed air bags.

Antoshi looked at the mangled bumper in his hands, awe-struck at how strong he was. He quickly brushed the thought aside, far more concerned with Fireball. He tossed the bumper aside while jogging up to the car. He grabbed the trunk lid, using far less effort than before to tear it off the frame. Fireball was still knocked out, with no further injuries other than the ones he suffered earlier.

“Fireball…,” he whispered. His eyes welled up with tears, a relieved grin spreading across his face, reaching in to pet Fireball's head gently. The torture of being separated and the wild chase to get him back were over now. He was finally able to relax. As he did, the red glow slowly faded from his eyes and around his body.

Antoshi heard a car racing toward him from behind. He turned to see the approaching red and blue lights of Officer Jenny's cruiser. She screeched to a halt, quickly putting the car in park before getting out.

“Are you all right?!” she exclaimed, baffled by the scene. “What in the world happened here? Were—were you flying?!”

“I— … well, …” he trailed off, chuckling nervously before recomposing himself. “Yes, I am all right. I, uh, I guess I was flying — a little bit.”

With her jaw hanging agape, she walked over and looked at the unconscious thieves.

“Wait a minute, I recognize these two. They're part of Team Rocket!” She reached into a small pocket on her duty belt, tossing out a Poké Ball of her own. “Quagsire, move out!”

The ball opened and the ensuing light faded to reveal an energetic Quagsire that happily jumped up and down.

“Quagsire, keep an eye on these two. Don't let them move.” Quagsire saluted and gave a nod. It waddled over to the side of the convertible.

“Team … Rocket?” Antoshi asked in surprise, his eyes shifting back and forth as he recalled old newspaper articles. “The Rocket Gang still exists?”

“Indeed they do,” Jenny replied. “They have a tendency to disband or go underground every so often, eventually resurrecting in some form with new leaders. It's been impossible to put a permanent end to them. After all these decades, they keep popping up like cockroaches.” She placed her hands on her hips, turning to the boy with a stern expression. “Antoshi, what you did was extremely reckless and, quite frankly, foolish. By chasing after Team Rocket like that, you or others could've even gotten hurt — or worse.”

He held his head down in guilt. She sighed heavily, quickly lightening up on him and gave a warm smile.

“Even still,” she went on, “I can't help but be happy for you. You caught the criminals, your Fireball is back, and I know how happy you must be. You're no ordinary kid, Antoshi. I know that after what I just witnessed from you. I promised that I'd find Fireball for you, and I'm sorry that I couldn't personally deliver on that promise.”

“It's all right, Officer Jenny,” he said, smiling graciously. “Fireball is back, and that's what's important. You still did so much for me. You gave me a place to stay safe, you took care of me, and hearing your story really meant so much to me. You lifted me back up when I really needed it. For that, I thank you.”

The pair smiled and shared brief hug. Jenny walked over to check on the two fainted Rockets.

“Well, looks like they're not going anywhere,” she remarked, in a more authoritative tone. She reached for her shoulder radio. “Central, 10-52, requesting a bus at 74th and … Persian. Also requesting backup; potentially dangerous suspects.”

Jenny gave her Quagsire a pat on the head for a job well done. Antoshi sighed heavily, opting to stay close to Fireball until assistance arrived. He felt so much more exhausted than usual. He sat on the edge of the trunk, barely able to keep his eyes open. He yawned loudly, wishing for nothing more than to get Fireball safely to a Pokémon Center and get himself some much-needed rest.

Unbeknown to them, the pertinacious Jalyn had not only regained consciousness but was already scheming a way to get herself out of there. She slipped a hand into her pocket, expanded the Poké Ball within and threw it into the air. Just as the ball popped open, she quickly opened her door and rolled out.

“Hey!” Jenny shouted, reaching for her sidearm. “Stay in the car!”

Jenny and Quagsire gasped as Malamar landed on the hood of the car with a thud, staring at them with its bitterly cold eyes.

“Malamar, Psychic!” Jalyn commanded. The pair shouted in surprise as they were lifted off their feet by its telekinesis.

“Quagsire! Use—!” Before Jenny could finish, Malamar flung the two further down the sidewalk.

“Now!” Jalyn exclaimed, pointing at Antoshi. “The kid!”

Malamar turned to the startled Antoshi, lifting him into the air.

“No!” he shouted, reaching out in vain to Fireball. “Fireball!!”

He looked at Jalyn with a terrified expression. She stared back at him with a twisted grin and a vicious look in her eyes. Her lack of sleep, the fear of death hanging over her head, and bewilderment over the events of the past day all came together with her typically misanthropic nature to make her finally snap. She was done with everything and everyone, shifting in self-preservation mode. She was getting out of there with that Typhlosion, and she was ready to crush anyone and anything in her way.

“You think you're special because you can fly?” she asked. “How about I teach you how to fall instead?! Malamar, give him a lift!”

Malamar used its psychic powers to send Antoshi high into the air. He screamed, flailing helplessly. He tried desperately to summon the same powers he displayed earlier, but couldn't due to his overwhelming fear and exhaustion. Held aloft by Malamar's powers, he hovered higher than the roof of a nearby ten-story building.

Matt groaned as he came to. He quickly noticed the scene playing out before him.

“Jalyn!” Matt shouted as he pushed the air bag down. “Stop this! You're taking it too far!”

She turned to him, wild-eyed. “Shut up!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. Matt slowly climbed out of the car, keeping his eyes affixed to her as she hyperventilated. “All you've ever done is complain and doubt me and give up! You're a worthless loser, Matt! I'm the one who always has to get the job done! I'm so tired! I'm tired of everything! No one's stopping me now! Malamar, end this damn child!!”

Matt reached for his own Poké Ball and tossed it into the air.

“Spiritomb, use Shadow Sneak on Malamar!” he exclaimed.

Spiritomb appeared behind its former cohort, striking it hard enough to cause it to stumble to the ground. The attack broke Malamar's hold on Antoshi — but there was no one to catch him. The boy fell toward the asphalt.

“No!!” he shouted, panting and screaming in horror as he rapidly plummeted.

His mind spiraled into a level of extreme panic, helplessly watching his end sprinting toward him. He thought of his parents, of his best friend, the day he left home, the happy and carefree moments he shared with Fireball. He never expected he'd be in this situation. He never expected his Pokémon journey to become the end of his young life.

With one last exhale, Antoshi looked at the convertible in time to see Fireball climbing out of the trunk. A reddish flame surrounded him just before he hit the ground.

Everything went black.

Chapter 6 »
Last edited:


Winter can't come soon enough
So, Matt had an accomplice huh. And one that's equally as confused why he chased Antoshi down so much. Well, she's packing a taser, but loses points for tossing it in with Fireball. She should have kept it on her person.

Antoshi does not take well to this situation. I'm not exactly an experienced reader of Pokémon stuff, but I appreciate that a kid breaks down crying when his partner vanishes on him. I mean, yeah, Antoshi seems very meek compared to how he'd acted the first several chapters. But, well, without Fireball, he's just a kid all alone in the middle of a big Kanto city.

On the other hand, I have mixed opinions on the reminiscing that follows. It's nice to get background on the two main characters, and also to see that they're not completely invincible since they have lost gym battles. But it is a fairly big chunk of exposition in the middle of what's supposed to be a tenser moment in the story. Don't get me wrong, it does paint a nice picture of how the two's relationship has grown. But it comes at a time when I'm more focused on the fact Fireball's currently missing. So, the exposition kind of sucks me out of it. If anything, this stuff feels like it should've been put into the first chapter to help establish their relationship.

Meanwhile, on the villainous side, Team Rocket! Can't say I'm surprised there. Though I am interested to see what they would be like decades after the days of Giovanni. As it stands, we've got some hapless grunts (who even somehow manage to lose Fireball), a thuggish guard (Doorman), and what I suspect is a nasty-tempered admin of some sort. Chad's definitely a more intimidating presence than we've seen thus far. But I'll have to see what the next chapter holds before I make any solid judgments on this Team Rocket.

One last bit:

“All right, one, … two, … lift.”
Pretty sure you either get commas or ellipses, not both.


Imagination Station
Chapter 6

“You must heed my words,” an unknown, deep voice echoed in the darkness. “This is your destiny. Boundless power awaits you.”

“My destiny,” another voice that sounded like Antoshi's responded. “This power has been nothing but incredible to me. I want to know what my destiny holds. I have to know.”

“Then you must end them. It is the only way to start anew. They do not care about you. No one cares about you. They could never understand the level of power you wield. They are all jealous of you. They want to hold you back.”

“They're … holding me back?”

“Yes. Your power is limitless. I will teach you how to unleash your power. But first, you must do as I say. This is the only way to find your true destiny.”

“The only way? … I'm not strong enough. I can't just …”

“You are strong beyond reason! You are capable of power the world has never seen before! Show the parasites no weakness!”

With a soft groan, Antoshi fluttered his eyes open. He lay completely still, letting his blurry vision focus, staring at a bright white light before him. He was at a total loss as to where he was. The memory of his plummet to the street immediately came flooding back to him.

‘Am I … dead?’ he thought. He wondered if the sense of tranquility he felt at that moment was transcendence to another plane of existence.

"Antoshi?" a familiar voice greeted him, quietly.

He turned his head to see Fireball rising from a chair. The boy blinked a few times in disbelief. A huge grin spread across the Typhlosion's maw.

“Fireball?” Antoshi replied, groggily, reaching out with his near hand to touch his friend's face. Antoshi's eyes immediately began to well up with tears. “This is … real, right?” Fireball nodded in response. Antoshi's hand fell away, uttering a trembling sigh as he rubbed his eyes with his forearm. He noticed an IV tube sticking out of his arm, leaving him confused. “What happened? Why am I here? … Where is 'here'?”

"We're in the Viridian City police station."

“I'm here again?” he mused.

There was no one else around in the small room. As Antoshi slowly sat up on what he realized was a hospital bed, something shifted around in his pocket. He dug a hand in to see what it was. To their mutual surprise, it was Fireball's Poké Ball.

"Is that mine?" Fireball asked, awe-struck.

“Of course,” Antoshi replied, with a cheeky smirk. “I've only ever had one Poké Ball.”

"So, you kept it on you. … I just knew you were thinking about me the whole time." Fireball turned his gaze away in guilt. "Antoshi, I'm so sorry for running away. It was a really dumb move and—"

“No,” Antoshi interrupted him. Fireball appeared confused. “I'm the one who should apologize, Fireball. I didn't … do enough. There were so many other ways for me to respond. It's my responsibility to keep you safe.”

"Don't do that to yourself, Antoshi," he replied. "The police told me everything that happened with you. I also heard all about how you were holding up as the day went on. … Please, don't blame yourself for something I did. You're so much better than that. You're the one person I really look up to."

“It's just that … you and I are almost one and the same. If something happens to you, I can't help feeling like it's my fault.”

Fireball placed a reassuring claw on Antoshi's shoulder. "It's not your fault."

Antoshi held his head down for a moment. What was essentially a short time away from his best friend wore on him so severely, so quickly. He only feared the worst the whole time Fireball was gone. Fireball's words resounded with him — as did the memory of what Jenny said to him in private. He focused too heavily on his negative feelings, but left no room to remain strong. That's what Fireball would've wanted from him. He finally understood the folly in how he acted toward Jenny, the other officers, and himself.

He heaved a sigh before nodding in agreement. He looked up at him with a smile. “I'm really happy that you're back. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

"Well, I was, but the police took me to the Pokémon Center nearby and got me all patched up. Then, they took me right back here so I could be with my best buddy when he wakes up. It was like having my own chauffeur — and you wouldn't believe how much food they gave me!"

Antoshi smirked. “I'll bet you were starving, huh?”

"I would've been, but I found this group of Rattata that gave me some food and then helped me to find you."

Antoshi's eyes widened. “So that's why there was a Rattata that brought me to you.”

"Yeah, they sure were helpful!"

The mood turned quiet for a moment as they reflected on their adventure, both of them smiling.

“So, … how long have I been out?”

"Err, well, it's been … three days since you, ya' know, fell."

“Three days?” he asked, slapping a hand over his forehead as he groaned. “Oh, man, Mom and Dad are probably worrying like crazy about us. We were supposed to call them the same day that we got to Viridian. Now, we have even less time to get that eighth badge. We gotta get going, we don't have much—”

"Okay, wait, slow down," Fireball reassured him. "Let's just take things one step at a time. Isn't that what you're always telling me?"

Antoshi nodded and took a deep breath. “You're right. I guess my mind still hasn't caught up with everything being settled now. I just need a few minutes to take everything in — especially after the whole flying … thing.”

"So it was true!" Fireball said. "I heard some of the officers joking about how you grew wings or something? How exactly did—"

“You're awake!” Jenny remarked, incredulously surprised as she entered the room alongside her Quagsire. “I—I can't even believe it. You've made a full recovery when, in all honesty, you shouldn't even be alive right now.”

“Alive?” Antoshi wondered aloud. “Oh, … man. I hadn't had time to consider how bad that fall I took was. I only woke up a few minutes ago.”

“Well, you've got a lot to catch up on.” Jenny smiled, helping to remove the IV from his arm. “Are you in any pain right now?”

Antoshi stretched his arms and legs out. “No, I feel completely fine, like I got a full night's rest.”

“That's incredible! You've been out for three days. Even if someone had survived the fall you took, I doubt they'd ever wake up. Yet, somehow, when the paramedics came and got you, you had no injuries whatsoever.”

Antoshi pondered the severity of the fall again. “I fell from the top of that building, … and I didn't even have a cut or a broken bone?”

“That's right. Admittedly, I was a wreck when the medics and other officers showed up. I was doing a lot of crying — I thought you were dead. I couldn't bear to look at … what had become of you after the fall. Initially, they had a yellow tarp over you because you weren't responding and they couldn't find a pulse. Then, another officer called me over to come and look at you. When I did, I was just flabbergasted. You were breathing again. It was a miracle beyond anything we'd ever seen.” Quagsire idly meandered out of the room.

“… Wow,” Antoshi remarked, lost in thought. “I thought for sure that I was … going to die. … I—I'm really sorry for making you worry, Officer Jenny.”

“There's no need to apologize,” she replied with a reassuring smile. “Words can't even begin to describe how happy I am to see both of you alive and well — and together again. Luckily, nobody asked what happened to you at first, especially because you had no injuries. Only after they took the tarp off and found out you were okay was about the time I was finally asked why you were in the street. I came up with a story that you were overcome with emotion and exhaustion and you just … collapsed. Still, I wasn't going to let Jalyn go without an attempted murder charge. My report states that I was the one she tried to kill with her Malamar.”

“What's going to happen to their Pokémon?”

“They'll be rehabilitated, put in a comfortable facility where they can't harm themselves or others. You saw the looks in Malamar's eyes, though. Those Pokémon were … traumatized beyond words. It might take a long time for them to snap out of it. Maybe years. Maybe … never.”

“I feel so terrible for them,” Antoshi remarked.

Jenny nodded. “I think it's safe to say they'll be all right now.”

Antoshi curiously looked around again. “But how come I'm here and not, you know, at the hospital?”

“This is where we bring injured suspects in order to keep them separated from the hospital population.”

Fear crossed both Antoshi and Fireball's faces.

“Does … that mean I'm going to jail?”

“Of course not!” she replied, laughing. “It is very much against protocol to bring a civilian here instead of the hospital but, given the extraordinary circumstances of what happened, I made an extraordinary exception for you. We even had a couple doctors come by to check on you a few times. They ran some tests and said you were perfectly fine, just suffering from severe exhaustion.”

“What happened to the two that kidnapped Fireball?”

“Ah, those two Rockets. It was a chaotic scene after you were knocked out so I'll try to piece it together as best I can. Fireball actually had enough strength left to help Matt's Spiritomb take down Jalyn's Malamar. She had something of a … psychotic break after that. We were able to subdue her until more officers showed up. She was arrested, their Pokémon confiscated, and Matt gave himself up peacefully. Fireball didn't know what happened to you until the paramedics started to check on you. He was … quite upset — much more than I was.”

Fireball solemnly nodded.

“After I saw that you were okay,” Jenny continued, “I let Fireball know. That's when they took him away to be healed, though he was quite insistent on staying with you. I promised that I'd take him back to see you once he was better, … and here we all are.”

Quagsire came back into the room, holding a newspaper up to Jenny. She chuckled and took it from him.

“Oh, and you made the papers a couple days ago,” she said, holding it up for Antoshi to see.

Antoshi read the headline, 'Team Rocket Blasts Off Into Custody!' along with a picture of Matt and Jalyn being arrested.

“Did it … mention me by name?” Antoshi asked, worried. “I really don't want my parents to know about this.”

“No, no. You're still underage, so they didn't use your name. In fact, they only made a small mention of you. 'A young boy nearby was also taken to a medical facility for treatment.' That's it. As for me, I intend to keep your secret safe.”

Antoshi smiled and sighed in relief. “Thank you so much, Officer Jenny — for everything.”
“Oh, and there's one more thing. …” She reached into her uniform's breast pocket, taking out a wallet. She tossed it onto his lap. “I believe this belongs to you.”

Antoshi took it with trembling hands, his chest swelling with pride.

“Our badges…” he remarked, opening the wallet up. All seven of them were accounted for. Despite being the catalyst for everything that occurred after, his wallet had taken a backseat in his mind as he worried for Fireball's safety. He and Fireball grinned at each other.

“Looks like we're back in business, buddy.” Fireball nodded in excitement.

“Well, I should get back to work,” Jenny said. “The two of you are free to stay here as long as you like. There's also a shower at the far end of the room if you want to wash up.”

“Thank you — again.”

Jenny and Quagsire left the room, leaving the duo alone once more. They gazed proudly at their badges inside the open wallet for a moment. With a happy sigh, Antoshi stood up and put the wallet away in his back pocket.

“That was some ride just to get a wallet back, huh?” Antoshi asked, stretching his arms high.

"Sure was," Fireball remarked. "I really hope we never go through anything like that ever again. From now on, I promise I'll listen to you and stay right by your side — no matter what. That's what best friends do."

Antoshi smiled and sighed, sharing a hug with Fireball.

“'Right by your side'? Where have I heard that before?” he teased, looking up at Fireball.

"Okay, I actually mean it this time."

Antoshi laughed and hugged his friend once more. Afterward, he found his backpack sitting on a nearby chair. He opened it up to store away Fireball's Poké Ball and take out a pair of clean clothes. Fireball opted to take a seat again to wait as Antoshi headed out of the room.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

After having showered and getting a fresh change of clothes, Antoshi picked up his backpack. “We gotta make up for three days of lost time,” he remarked, slinging it over his shoulders as Fireball stood and stretched. “You ready?”

"Heck yeah!"

“First, though, we need to make a quick stop at the nearest Pokémon Center to call Mom and Dad.”

Antoshi and Fireball headed out to give their farewells to the officers in the police station. Jenny waited by the entrance to give Antoshi a hug and a personal farewell. She smiled proudly as she watched them leave, gazing up at the sky for a moment to think about her Archie. With the missing Typhlosion case officially closed, she breathed a sigh of content before heading back to her office.

Outside, the noon sun hung high on a partly cloudy sky. Antoshi grinned from ear to ear, his bright hair shimmering in the light. Things were finally back to normal after what felt like an eternity of tumult.

"Shouldn't you take out your map to see where the Center is?" Fireball asked.

“Nah, I already memorized it,” Antoshi replied, casually. “It's just a few blocks straight ahead.”

Fireball stared at him strangely for a moment. "Wow, you must've been really bored if you memorized the entire map of the city while I was gone."

Antoshi laughed. “I guess that's one way of putting it.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The city's southernmost Pokémon Center was busy, due to how big of a city Viridian was. The duo had to wait a few minutes for a videophone to free up. While a bit uneasy about the limited time they had to get their eighth badge and move on, both of them were just happy to be able to spend that time together again. In the meantime, Antoshi got them registered to stay a night in the Center. He couldn't help himself from grinning as he reached for his wallet, back in its rightful place, in order to take out his Trainer Card. He thanked Nurse Joy as she handed him the room key.

Once a phone freed up, Antoshi sat down in front of it with Fireball behind him. He tapped his Trainer Card against the screen to call home. The phone rang no longer than usual before his mother answered.

“Antoshi!” she joyfully exclaimed. “It took you a little while to get back to us after Pallet Town. I thought you were in a rush!”

“Started exploring the sights again?” his father asked, appearing on screen as he sat next to her.

“Yeah, we got … a little caught up in Viridian City,” Antoshi replied, with a slight smirk. “Fireball and I are here now, though, and we're safe and sound.”

“That's good to hear,” his father replied. “We're glad you're checking in with us. So~, what's Viridian City like?”

Antoshi quickly mulled through the memories of their time in Viridian. “It's … a very exhausting city,” the boy said. Fireball nodded in agreement. “I guess you could say that I already learned a lot about myself from my time being here.”

“Wonderful!” his mother replied. “Ohh, Antoshi, you're growing up so quickly right before my eyes. Promise me that, no matter what happens by the time the tournament is finished, you'll come right back home afterward.”

“I promise, Mom,” he replied with a warm smile. “I'm really happy to talk to you both again. Honestly, I've been thinking about home a lot lately, so I'm feeling a little homesick.”

“'Homesick'?” his father mused. “That's a word I never imagined I'd hear you say, son. You have been gone over a year now. Starting to get your fill of being out on your own?”

“Not even close!” he exclaimed, all of them sharing a brief laugh. “I do miss being with you both. I won't be gone away much longer, but Fireball and I promise we're going to give our absolute best at that tournament.”

“I wouldn't expect anything less,” his mother proudly replied. “We'll be rooting for you at home, sweetie! Oh, and don't forget to pick up your package of clothes at the Pokémon Center!”

“We love you!” his parents said together.

“Love you guys, too,” Antoshi replied, grinning.

The screen displayed 'Call Ended'. Antoshi breathed a sigh of relief, closing his eyes for a moment. It was comforting, after the harrowing experience he went through, to see the faces of his parents and to hear their voices again. Everything truly felt back to normal.

“Let's get us some new clothes, Fireball,” he said, as he sprung to his feet.

"Lucky I don't wear any," Fireball joked. "I don't think they'd fit me."

Antoshi sighed, playfully, and rolled his eyes. They walked over to a small kiosk tucked away in a corner of the main area. Over it was a plastered sign reading 'Parcel Delivery System'. Antoshi swiped his Trainer Card along the side of the machine. It lit up with a list of packages sent and awaiting delivery.

He tapped on the screen for a package sent three days prior. A vacuum tube in the walls whirred, an automatic door under the kiosk slid open. He reached down and took a small parcel from it, prompting the door to slide shut. The pair found a place to sit down and open their mail.

Antoshi unwrapped a half-dozen neatly folded polo shirts and shorts. The clothes still smelled freshly laundered.

“More of these, huh?” he asked, with a smile.

Slipped between them was a small envelope with several thousand more Pokédollars, money which he put away in his wallet. Fireball watched and waited patiently as Antoshi folded away the old clothes from his backpack, replacing them with the new clothes. He placed his old clothes in the package his mother sent, sealed it back up, and headed back to the kiosk to send them home. Once that was done, Antoshi motioned for Fireball to follow him before they headed for the front doors.

Back outside, both of them sighed happily. They felt refreshed, geared up for what was to be the last leg of their long journey. Their next destination: Viridian City Gym, which they began heading toward.

"Man," Fireball remarked, looking around at the open, bustling city. "This place seems so much nicer when I'm not fleeing for my life."

“And when I'm not constantly worrying about where you are,” Antoshi replied with a grin. “Guess we can turn even bad memories into good ones, huh?”

"Yeah, especially when they turn out all right in the end!" The pair crossed the street along with a handful of other people before Fireball continued. "Say, Antoshi, do you want to … talk about what happened to you? You know, you … almost died."

Antoshi sighed and nodded, offering his friend a reassuring smile.

“It was definitely terrifying. It was really the scariest moment of my life. I thought about you, and Mom, and Dad. It was like what people always say, my life flashed before my eyes. When Officer Jenny was catching me up on everything that happened, that's when it really hit me. It's weird, though. I should be … traumatized over it. But, really, I'm just happy to be alive. I'm happy to still be here with my best buddy and my family, because I love you all so much. I don't want to think about how scary that was. I don't want it to weigh on me. I'm sure at times in the future it's going to hit me again, but I gotta look at the positive side. I just have to remember what's important to me, and to be thankful that I'm alive.”

"I'm really thankful for that, too," Fireball said, placing a claw on Antoshi's shoulder. "Also, I never got to ask you something back in the police station. How did you do all that crazy flying I heard about? Some of the policemen there were joking about those two crooks saying you flew after them. Apparently that's how you caught them, but none of the police believed the story. What happened?"

“Well, it … was because of that strange glow around me that shows up every so often. It came back again, only this time it was way more powerful. It ended up giving me this huge burst of really intense energy when I was running after the car. Somehow, it made me able to fly.”

"That is really cool! Can I watch you flying sometime?"

“I don't know if I can do it again — or even if I should.

"You're still nervous about what this all means?"

“A little,” Antoshi said, shrugging. “Still, I have to be thankful for it coming through in a pinch. With that energy, I was able to save you, … and save myself from dying. I just … I can't shake this feeling like there's something more to it. There just has to be. There's something important I don't fully understand yet. Honestly, I'm a little excited, but also nervous about that.”

"Well, at least now you can reach stuff in high places — just fly up and get it!"

Antoshi scoffed in amusement. It was a very 'Fireball' remark. “I'll keep that in mind.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

The duo spent a few hours walking around in the growing light and heat of the day. After taking the time to explore some of the city and getting something to eat, they closed in on the Viridian City Gym. The one-story white building was situated in the heart of the city. A long, large pathway led from the sidewalk to the front doors.

The Gym itself was fairly plain, but the lavish landscaping along the pathway toward it was anything but. Antoshi and Fireball found themselves fascinated by the foliage. They walked underneath tall, sculpted hedges in the shape of arcs that went high over their heads. Innumerable colorful flowers lined the edges and far beyond. As they got closer, even more hedges in the shape of various Pokémon encircled the front of the Gym.

"This is cool," Fireball remarked, awe-struck.

“Yeah,” Antoshi added, smiling. “Someone took the city's motto of 'Eternally Green Paradise' very seriously.”

The automatic front doors opened, allowing the duo inside. They were taken aback once again, this time by the grand decor of the Gym's spacious main room. It was warm and cozy, with earth tones on the walls and tile floor — scarred in places from past battles. Large paintings of strangers hung along the walls, with various accents and warm lighting. The scent of potpourri filled the air.

"This is very cool," Fireball said.

“I can't wait to meet the Gym Leader,” Antoshi replied, looking around. “Hello? My name is Antoshi! I'm here to challenge the Viridian City Leader for the Earth Badge!”

A few moments later, a wooden door on the far end of the intricately-patterned stadium floor opened. A tall woman with dark skin and short, green hair emerged.

“Hello there, young Trainer,” she said, as she closed the door behind her. “My name is Elise. I am the Ground-Type Master of the Viridian Gym. Welcome to my humble stage.”

“Humble?” Antoshi replied, quizzically. “This is the most aesthetic Gym I've ever seen.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a warm smile, strolling to the opposite end of the battling floor. “I did all of the decor and the landscaping myself.”

“You did all those hedges out there?”

“I certainly did. Most Gym Leaders see their Gym as a job; a place to clock in and clock out. For me, my Gym is my home. I live here. So, in my free time, when Trainers aren't here for a badge, I pass the time gardening or making pottery like the vases you see all around.”

Antoshi and Fireball were astonished, not just by how well-made everything was, but that one person did all of it.

“Wow,” Antoshi said. “You're incredibly talented!”

Elise chuckled. “I'm also quite talented at Pokémon battles.”

“Where are all your Gym Trainers?” he asked, giving another look around.

“I pride myself on having a 'no frills' Gym experience. Some of the previous Leaders here were … let's say, less than forthcoming. The people of Viridian are happy to have an honest and straightforward Leader for the city Gym — someone who takes her title very seriously. Trainers are also happy because they get to battle for a badge sooner.”

“Aren't you worried battling might destroy the decor here?”

“Of course. The stadium floor has already seen its fair share of battles. The decorations, however, are made quite sturdy. Some of them have protective padding or are adhered in place so they don't move. The paintings you see on the wall are set firmly as well. Those paintings are important to me, as they're portraits of some of the former Gym Leaders here. Seeing their faces helps me to continue the lineage here and uphold the dignity of the Viridian City Gym.”

Antoshi continued to be impressed. Of all the Gym Leaders he'd encountered, none of them seemed as proud and dedicated as Elise was. It was a level of devotion that he imagined all Gym Leaders had before he became a Trainer.

“You seem like a really honest person, Elise. I admire how seriously you take every aspect of being a Gym Leader, and I know I would be proud if I was a resident of Viridian City.”

“Thank you, again. Now, as per Indigo League rules, I have to inform that, if you lose, you cannot attempt a rematch for another fourteen days.” Antoshi nodded in acknowledgment. “Very well. Shall we get on with the battle?”

“Sounds good to us,” Antoshi replied, grinning confidently.

Fireball stepped onto the battlefield, stretching his neck out and cracking his knuckles. He gave a shout, the fires on his back igniting.

“I don't see any other Poké Balls on you, young Trainer,” she said, while reaching for a Great Ball on her hip. “Are you hiding them, or do you believe you can win with just a Typhlosion?”

“Fireball and I are best friends — and he's the only partner I've needed so far.”

Fireball stood proudly.

“That's very admirable. I believe Pokémon should be treated like friends — even like family. However, only having one Pokémon is quite foolish. Allow me to show you why.” Elise threw the Great Ball into the air, which opened on its own accord. “Go, Gliscor!”

The light that poured from the ball took shape and faded. Elise's Gliscor hovered in mid-air and gave a battle cry. It stretched its pincerlike claws out, brimming with energy as it darted from side to side. Antoshi paused for a brief moment to marvel at the Gliscor with a slight smile. It was the first one he'd ever seen in-person. Elise caught the ball when it returned to her.

“You ready?” Antoshi asked his friend. Fireball turned him and nodded. “Then let's make number eight happen! Fireball, Rollout!” Fireball hopped into his ball form and revved in place. His entire body once again came alight. “Rolling Fireball!”

The ignited Fireball shot like a bullet toward his opponent. Elise's eyebrows raised, caught off-guard by Fireball's incredible speed.

“Gliscor, use Toxic!” Elise commanded.

Just before Fireball's attack connected, Gliscor spat up a viscous, purplish liquid that covered Fireball's spinning body. Gliscor was subsequently struck hard, spiked like a volleyball into a small crater in the elegant flooring.

Fireball rebounded into the air. Gliscor groaned before falling unconscious.

Elise's jaw hung slightly agape, surprised at Typhlosion's strength. She hummed with intrigue as she recalled her Gliscor back into its Great Ball.

Fireball rolled back to his side of the field and hopped up to his hind feet. He held his arms out as he and Antoshi stared at the purple poison that was soaked into his fur.

“Very good attack, Trainer,” Elise said, switching her Great Ball for an Ultra Ball. “Unfortunately, your Typhlosion is now badly poisoned and I still have three more Pokémon left. Do you believe your Typhlosion has enough stamina to hold out?”

Fireball turned to Antoshi and gave him a thumbs up. He suddenly coughed up some of the purple liquid onto his paw.

"Aw, man, that's just gross," Fireball remarked, shaking his paw clean.

“I would suggest you finish this battle quickly,” she said. “With only one Pokémon, the clock on that poison is ticking.”

Antoshi stared at her with an intensely serious expression. ‘She's right,’ he thought. ‘We don't have much of a choice here. We have to strike as hard and as often as we can.’

Elise threw out her next ball. “Hippowdon, I choose you!”

From the open ball dropped a monstrous hippopotamus with enough weight to cause the ground to rumble. Sand poured out continuously from the circular vents on its back. It slowly opened its massive maw and roared at Fireball. It activated its Sand Stream ability to instantly create a sandstorm condition on the battlefield. Sand erupted out of its vents, swirling and whipping violently around the stadium, encircling the two Pokémon.

‘Now, what kind of character does this boy possess?’ she wondered with a smirk. ‘Will he let me get inside his head?’

“Things are quickly getting much worse for both of you,” Elise said. “That sandstorm will continuously damage your Typhlosion, and leave my Ground-type Pokémon unharmed. Are you certain you don't want to concede for the sake of your best friend?”

Antoshi ignored her, quick to make his first move. “All right, Fireball! Eruption!”

Fireball took off, running on all fours toward his opponent.

“Hippowdon, Protect!” Elise said.

Hippowdon growled loudly as its body was enveloped in a large, magical blue dome.

Antoshi uttered a shout of disbelief. “Wait, Fireball, come back! Save your energy.”

Fireball screeched to a halt. He stood upright, walking backwards with a puzzled expression.

“Are you really going to stall this one out?!” Antoshi asked.

Elise chuckled. “I most certainly am, young Trainer. My job is to win. That means I'll use any legal battle tactic to do so. I've faced many Trainers before you. I know your Typhlosion is strong and nimble. Your strategy is a full-tilt offense. But since you only have one Pokémon, that means I can simply wear it down with poison, weather conditions, and time. The only thing left from there is to remove your Typhlosion's ability to attack.”

‘She definitely has our number,’ he thought, clicking his tongue. ‘Still, she can't use Protect continuously since it'll fail the more she uses it in a row. She knows that for sure, too. She's probably going to attack in-between those phases. That's our only time to strike.’

Fireball coughed up a smattering of purple poison again, a visual indicator that the poison was wearing him down. Once the protective blue dome around Hippowdon disappeared, Antoshi sprung into action.

“Fireball, now use Eruption!” he said.

The flames on Fireball's back flared out intensely as he raced toward Hippowdon on all fours. He clenched his teeth, squinting his eyes to see through the veil of sand churning through the air via magical means.

He crashed headlong with the incredibly heavy beast, managing to send it airborne. Standing atop a bed of sand, the fires on Fireball's back erupted into a massive pillar of flame that engulfed the monstrous Hippowdon and briefly kept it aloft. Hippowdon gave no indication that it was in any pain. When his attack petered out, Fireball quickly sprinted out of the way. He winced at the grains of sand continuing to pelt him.

“Hippowdon, use Dig!” Elise commanded.

Just as Hippowdon was about to smash back into the ground, it instead burrowed its beefy frame into the sand-covered ground with some help from gravity.

Fireball made it back to their side of the field. Antoshi heaved a sigh of frustration over Elise continuing to use stall tactics. They wouldn't have been in such a pickle if they had even one more Pokémon on their team. Both of them were fully aware of the risks in their single Pokémon strategy, but it wasn't any less frustrating to face an opponent who could exploit their weaknesses.

Antoshi watched Fireball cover his eyes from the whipping sands and subsequently cough up more poison. However, Hippowdon was soon going to tunnel back up for its attack.

“Fireball!” he exclaimed. “Keep moving! Make it harder for Hippowdon to lock on to you!”

The idea was a gamble, especially since Fireball fleeing aimlessly caused the sand to whip harder at him and injured him further. Fireball grunted as he ran around, ignoring the pain as best he could.

“Now, strike!” Elise said.

The ground rumbled under Fireball's feet. He leapt out of the way, avoiding Hippowdon as it charged up through the floor with such momentum that it went airborne.

Antoshi narrowed his eyes. Watching Hippowdon launch out of its burrowed tunnel gave him an idea he quickly acted on.

“Fireball, Lava Plume!” Antoshi shouted.

Fireball's eyes lit up, picking up on the boy's idea, smirking confidently. He dropped down on all fours again, staying in place while keeping his sights set on the mid-air Hippowdon. He gave a loud roar, the flames on his back raging. From his claws, a burst of magma traveled through the ground like a moving volcanic rupture.

The magma reached the pit that Hippowdon had created, causing a large blast of lava to erupt violently out of it. Unable to evade, Hippowdon took a direct hit from the attack. It roared in pain before being sent crashing hard on its side of the field, struggling to pick itself back up. It instead fell unconscious.

With two Pokémon down, victory was in sight. Fireball, however, was starting to look languid. Antoshi was concerned for his friend's health.

‘Fireball and I can do this,’ Antoshi thought, pursing his lips. ‘I know we can. We're already so close to the finish line. If we lose now, we'll have to wait another six months to compete in the next Indigo League tournament.’

While Elise recalled her fainted Hippowdon, Fireball again coughed up more poison. After which, he shielded his face from the briefly intensifying sandstorm. The combination of continuous passive damage and stall tactics meant that the duo still had to slog through an uphill battle.

Chapter 7 »
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Winter can't come soon enough
Excluding that little bit with the Rockets, the start of this chapter is interesting. I say that because it's the first time since, I believe, the start of the fic where we just have scenes outlined with narration. The difference is that rather than describing a whole bunch of scenery (as in chapter 1), this is instead a pair of somber, more reflective scenes as the gravity of the situation sets in for both main characters. I think there's a decent contrast going between Fireball's more animalistic, instinctual reactions, and Antoshi's neurotic behavior as a result of his nerves. I guess what I'm saying is that it's a pretty good contrast to the other quieter scenes in the story, which have been very upbeat.

I'm a bit less sold on Jenny apparently losing her Pokémon to Team Rocket. Or, rather, would have appreciated a bit of extra context or one of those, "I know how you feel," kind of moments. Was it inexperience that caused her to lose her Arcanine? If she was already on the force, I'd think she and her Pokémon would be pretty capable. On the bright side, I guess this indicates Team Rocket's not just emerging from the fringes. They've been around long enough to cause enough trouble for the police to know of them. And also, unique Pokémon for the grunts! I was expecting Kanto native species, but, hey, Spiritomb and Malamar are cool.

The resolution is not something I can say I was expecting, though. Not in the slightest. And I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. Introducing special powers like you did can be a bit of a double-edged sword, in my opinion. You opted to go the "sudden burst of several powers that aren't well controlled" route, as opposed to one power potentially activating and building on that later on. I'd need to see more of where this is going to form a full opinion of it. As it is, flight, super strength, an ESP connection, and what seemed like healing abilities, is a lot to dish up all at once and comes across as rather overpowered. However, to your credit, the situation doesn't actually turn out to be a perfectly happy ending, mostly due to how absolutely nuts Jalyn turned out to be (though there were hints of this last chapter). So, while I was definitely taken aback at first, it didn't come across as cliché. I've got a lot of questions, but I'm guessing that's what the next chapter's for.

One grammatical tidbit I caught:
He glanced at the glove compartment where the gun lie as thoughts swirled around in his head.
Should be "where the gun lay."

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
OKIE DOKIE SODIE ODIE. I've seen this one around for some time. About time I gave it a looking-at, yeah?

I think I'm gonna try something different this time. Something more chapter-by-chapter. Unfiltered thoughts about each. Let's do this. B)

Chapter 1:
First paragraph really sets the scene. It's easy to just think of places like Saffron as... well. As their barebones in-game counterparts. The great thing about prose is you aren't limited to that noise. You can make a place seem more alive than the games allow, as shown there.

Meanwhile that's possibly the fastest I've ever seen a title drop happen.

Protag certainly seems cheerful! Ray of sunshine indeed. And can understand pokémon, apparently. I'm guessing this has something to do with the fact that he's been at the whole trainer thing for a while now?

Although, hmm. If he can understand all pokémon--and assuming that means ones he's not actually training--then I suppose something else is at work. In fact yeah, since no one he knows (presumably including other trainers) has this ability, then there's definitely something peculiar in the mix. Time will tell what that is, I reckon.

That corsola was freaking adorable, btw. Still, I'm not sorry to have seen him get his butt kicked. There's just something satisfying about seeing something get owned by something with a type disadvantage--where it makes sense, of course, and such was the case here. I'd have to wonder what the hickety heck was up if a twice-evolved one-year veteran couldn't take down a piddly little newbie corsola. :p

To think Antoshi's voyage moving forward almost got derailed by funnel cakes of all things. Color me amused. XD

Chapter 2:

Agreed with Antoshi about spring being pretty nifty--though in my case it's because that's when all the bugs come out :B Though I still can't call it my fave if we're being honest here. That honor goes to autumn. :B

Here I am, only now realizing just how pretty a bunch of tentathingers drifting on the waves would be, especially in the daytime. They're kind of translucent, I'd imagine. (Maybe they canonically are?? Idk. Not exactly a tentacool/cruel expert here. XD; ) Probably catch the sun like frickin' rhinestones. :D

That's pretty gutsy of Antoshi, using just a single pokémon like that--alk about a self-imposed challenge! Guess it's working out all right for him thus far, though. Will it continue to? I guess we'll see...

Something about referring to the entrance of a "sprawling, tropical paradise" as having a maw makes it seem... oddly foreboding? Like it's some kind of wild, overgrown place filled with heck knows what, and it'll eat you alive if its denizens don't first. Idk if that's what you were going for, but yeah.

Decades after the eruption--so this is post GSC/HGSS, hmm? Or alt universe. Either way, congrats to Cinnabar for bouncing back.

Since it has been decades, I wonder who the current gym leader is. Cause I mean. Well. Blaine was old as frick. And I don't think he's had any giant crystal death flowers rebound on him at any point--though of course only you can answer that one for sure. :p

...Do I even want to know how much property damage resulted from the Mudkip Incident? XD (Actually yeah, I kind of do. X3) Anyway, feeling kinda sorry for Antoshi now, even if it doesn't seem to be getting him down any. Having a oops hanging over your head like that can really suck, heh.

Oh my god, Fireball. Fireball. The answer is not cyndaquil, you huge DORK. XD

Antoshi and I are of very different minds when it comes to quiz-gyms. Me, I'll deliberately fight all the trainers for the sake of experience. But this, again, ain't the games. Maybe his way's more practical in a more real-lifeish setting, where the pokémon are livign critters rather than data?

There's the gym leader question addressed. Blaire's certainly got an attitude on her. The Blaine cosplay's kind of cute and funny, though, heh.

Chapter 3:

Somehow I never would've expected slash to ever be described as "magical". Swift, perhaps, but not necessarily slash. Then again, those two moves ARE the same type.

I like how eruption as performed by a typhlosion is depicted. Of COURSE it'd come from the neck ruff. Makes sense, that, and looks cool to boot.

(It's things like this that make me remember why the cyndaquil line = my favorite Johto starters. :D)

Antoshi certainly lucked out with that hyper beam missing. As did Fireball, naturally. :p But yeah, I'm inclined to think that had that hyper beam connected, it would've cost them the badge.

Blaire. Blaire. The fire type does not belong to you and you alone, you nerd. :p

Also: presumably he knocked out your rapidash in one hit because that rollout had been going on for a good while by that point. KEEP ROLLIN ROLLIN ROLLIN ROLLIN...

Speaking of rollout, neat to see the +defense curl combo get referenced.

Instant Blaire whipped out a talonflame I knew she was boneroned. :p Makes me wonder what she traded for that. Maybe her old pokémon would've fared better? It is a mystery.

Willing to bet that dream will prove relevant later. I wonder how, exactly...

I also suspect that Antoshi's dismissal of the whole watch idea is gonna come back and bite him directly in the buttcheeks later. :p

Chapter 4:

That thief's got guts, trying to pickpocket someone with a big ol' typhlosion hanging around at all times. Either that or said thief simply hasn't got brains. :p

Of course now you've got me wondering who the current professor is. :B Since this takes place such a long time after the canons I'm familiar with, I can't even begin to guess.

Going back to the whole fleshing out towns thing, it's neat to see Pallet as an actual town as opposed to just... a sad little cluster of houses, heh.

This is absolutely Fireball's theme song and I will not hear otherwise. X3

Sweet, we're back to the "how coem he can understand pokémon" matter. I wonder what he means by different... oh. Oh. Antoshi confirmed for pyrokinetic, I suppose. :p Even though humans with psychic powers, at least, are canonical, the fire powers make me wonder if he's really human.

...I say fire, but. The fact that these abilities can also apparently give him super strength is making me think fighting now. That's kind of a neat thought. I've contemplated some humans being fighting-types myself.

More weird dreams. Unwittingly remembering some suppressed event that's responsible for his abilities, perhaps? Antoshi's not the only one who suspects a connection.

Okay that thief? Is starting to make me suspect he knows exactly who tf Antoshi is. And quite possibly knows why Antoshi can do what he can, or at least answers to someone who knows. Rockets maybe?

Chapter 5:

Okay most money in general amells effign weird. I shudder to think what kind of stonk Jeff-cash has if it's even worse. :p

And so Antoshi comes face to face with one of the disadvantages of the one-pokémon method. Focusing all the training on just one can make for a stronger individual pokémon, but it can also leave you high and dry if something happens to said pokémon.

(I'm still kinda-sorta getting tempted into trying a starter-only run as a direct result of reading this. :B)

The whole "overtrained pokémon can be hard for trainers to handle" thing = also interesting to see in fiction.

Okay, current inclination is: Matt doesn't know anything about Antoshi's abilities. He's just hells of desperate for money. Meanwhile, Rockets confirmed.

Chapter 6;

It's interesting, how both keeping your pokémon balled and keeping them out each come with their own vulnerabilities. In the ball, the pokémon could be anything--maybe something worth stealing, maybe something dirt common. A discriminating thief might not bother. Meanwhile an indiscriminate thief would doubtless have an easier time carrying away a capture ball than carrying away most pokémon.

Antoshi's feeling of being sort of out-of-step with the world in his friend's glarign absence is pretty realistic and relatable. It's like the world splits in two: their world, which is happy, and yours, which is not.

Feeling for Jenny, as well. Time really doesn't heal everything, does it. And damn, that poor arcanine... :(

Meanwhile Antoshi's doing his weird phenomenon thing and apparently humans can't see it. Or at least no one in the vicinity could. I wonder if anyone can. Anyone human, I mean. For that matter, I wonder if all pokémon can perceive it or if it's just Fireball.

The fact that he can apparently dream events happening in real time through Fireball's eyes makes me rather less certain than before about the nature of previous dreams. Maybe they weren't Antoshi's memories...

Oh ****, Fireball got hit by a car! I hope he's all right. For that matter, I wonder if those two Rockets are all right. Hitting a large animal can do a real number on you and your vehicle, and Fireball sure ain't tiny.

On the one hand, Fireball getting hypnosis'd was certainly a stroke in the Rockets' favor. On the other, well. At least he got a nice little time-out from the pain??

Immediate thought upon Antoshi leaving the ground: HE CAN FLY, HE CAN FLY, HE CAN FLYYYYYYY :p Less immediate: has he got flying-type abilities, too? Or maybe what's going on with him can't be categorized like that. Hmm...

Anyway yeah, I'd be pretty shocked too if I suddenly and unexpectedly stopped obeying gravity. :B

So. His weird aura, or whatever it is, is apparently invisble to most, while apparently his flight is not. Kid better be careful, then. Stunts like that might draw unwanted attention, and he's already got a bit of that on his shoudlers as it is.

That's quite the cliffhanger there at the end. Somehow I get the feeling we've not seen the last of Antoshi--though at the same time, I don't rule out the possibility that the fall killed him. That's the thing about death in fiction. Sometimes it doesn't stick. ;)

So that's the story so far, I suppose. Curious to see what happens next!


Gone. Not coming back.
It's been too long since I last checked in with this fic! I clicked through again and you know, I'd forgotten that facility you have with conjuring that particular bright, cheery summer-holiday feeling that the pokémon world has to it. Quite often it's not something that people really focus on, you know? They focus on fleshing out the pokémon world in other ways, bringing it closer to ours by introducing different perspectives that darken the picture the games paint in various ways, but not so much working with that to transfer that mood to paper. Screen. Whatever.

Most of my reservations about this fic – about Fireball and Antoshi, the placement of that big backstory segment, the pacing, the structure, et cetera – have been amply dealt with by other reviewers, I think, so I'll try to avoid repeating what they've said, but I do feel like I'd like to expand on Negrek's point about Blaire being weirdly underprepared as a Gym Leader. Like – it's her job to be good at fire-types, you know? And Antoshi just smashes straight through her with rollout, which, while it's an accurate representation of what you might do in-game, feels very strange when you ask your reader to take Blaire seriously as a character. She doesn't have any of the grasp of strategy or anything that you'd expect someone to need in order to qualify to work as a Gym Leader. I think this is symptomatic of one of this story's weaknesses: while your atmosphere is wonderful and your sense of place (of which more later) very striking, sometimes the characters – especially supporting characters like Blaire or Officer Jenny – fall a little flat. A line like this, for instance:

“Every passing minute without his friend had to feel like an eternity.”

doesn't sound very much like something anyone would actually say. Part of it is because it's in a strange tense that makes it sound as if it's part of the narration – it would be more natural for Jenny to say 'must' than 'had to' – but also because it's a very literary turn of phrase, for want of a better term. Like, it's a sentence that's much more at home as part of a story than as dialogue. Sometimes your characters really work – Matt, while he's following Antoshi around, is genuinely very funny – but sometimes they don't, and this is one of those points, I think.

I also feel like that the tasering scene might not necessarily make sense. Fireball's whole deal is that he's a very strong pokémon used to intense battles – so like, I'd imagine he's been hit by electric attacks as or more powerful than a stun gun before, which makes the idea of him being floored by one, even if it takes two blasts, a little difficult to swallow. Assuming all the Gym Leaders use the same types as in the Kanto we're familiar with (and all right, they might not, I suppose), he would have had to clear an electric Gym single-handedly, which argues for a good deal more strength than he displays here. There are other ways to plausibly incapacitate a very strong pokémon – status moves from another pokémon are the most obvious, I guess, and indeed you do go down that route later on, with the malamar, so it isn't as if the Rockets don't have that option available to them.

That said, one thing that remains really consistently strong is that fantastic sense of place you have going on here. Trainer fics are carried half by the protagonist and half by the world, and I've already dealt with the atmosphere of your world but the locations themselves deserve some attention; I like the near-future vibe, the way Cinnabar has been built up (has there been no volcanic eruption in this world? Or are we far enough in the future that the island has recovered?), the sense of history and organisation that Kanto and the League have to them. All of that's really cool stuff – particularly Pallet as a tourist town where people go to see where Red and Oak lived. That's a great touch.

Also, I wholeheartedly approve of Rocket grunts being kitted out a bit better in this world. I really don't know what the executives are thinking in the games. “Yeah, this guy can take care of anything! I gave him three rattata and a zubat, that should be enough for him to steal pokémon from anyone.” A spiritomb and a malamar make much more formidable opponents, and that makes a lot more sense for an organisation that specifically uses strong, stolen pokémon to its advantage.

Then of course there's Antoshi's super powers, which – you know, that's more or less 100% canon, with the psychic trainer class, people who can see spirits and all the rest of what there is in the games, and it's not something I see people exploring very often in fic, so I'm delighted to see what you plan to do with it here. I like how it's complicated, and the powers themselves aren't treated as the interesting thing so much as the situations they lead Antoshi into – that's a common pitfall that you've avoided very nicely.

Some other little things:

The bitter coldness and snowy days of winter had passed and, in its wake, brought forth almost constantly clear skies.

This sentence seems to be missing a noun before 'brought' – 'spring', I'd guess.

“So delicious…,” Fireball remarked in bliss.

You don't need the comma at the end of dialogue that ends with an ellipsis like that.

As long as you and your Pokémon don't cause anymore problems

'Any more' should be two words here.

“It missed?!” She screamed.

'She' doesn't need to be capitalised here – dialogue attributions don't need to be, even if the dialogue line ends with an exclamation mark/question mark/interrobang. Unless 'She screamed' is meant to be a complete sentence on its own? But you know, if so, it's in a place where it's sort of ambiguous.

But it would be remiss of me to lay down all this critique without pointing out the other thing I really like about this fic, which is your particular style of gentle comedy; Matt following Antoshi and Fireball around (while a bit improbable – surely after a while he'd give up and go for an easier mark rather than travel all the way to Pallet and then around town?) and getting more and more frustrated at every turn was particularly good. I'll definitely be checking back more frequently in future, both for that and to see what you plan to do with Antoshi and his powers next!


Gone. Not coming back.
The part about Jenny's character I can agree with. I definitely felt that she was coming up a little lacking while writing, and so I may end up going back to it. To be honest, though, I'm not sure what else to add on without making the chapter feel like it's being stretched unnecessarily. I already got a whole bunch of criticism about the entirety of chapter one's existence. As for Blaire, I have been thinking of perhaps highlighting the fact that she's a new/inexperienced Gym Leader. She grandstands to make up for the fact that she's not quite settled into her role as a Leader just yet. The fact that they had some comical banter back and forth before the battle, and Blaire's short temper and introspective don't really make her come off like a serious character anyway. I'm not sure if your remark about "when you ask your reader to take Blaire seriously as a character" is because of something I wrote or because of the fact that she's a Gym Leader, so I'd love to hear more about what you think on that in order for me to potentially fix this flaw.

I think the question I ask about Blaire is: why was she chosen as a Gym Leader if she can't handle a super-effective attack? Obviously you can make allowances for people being new to their jobs; that was Flannery's deal in RSE, for instance. But Blaire is really, really underprepared to deal with even a basic rock-type move, which feels a little odd for a Gym Leader. I'd say definitely highlight that she's inexperienced, but also she needs to come across as a bit more competent. Gym Leaders are supposed to be some of the best trainers around, but Blaire just doesn't fit the bill. You proved in chapter one that pokémon battles don't just come down to type match-ups, when Fireball defeated the corsola; in this battle, however, it does just come down to type match-ups, without any real attempt on Blaire's part to strategise around that weakness. Which makes her a little difficult to believe in as a plausible Gym Leader, if you see what I mean.

As for Jenny -- I think a lot of it is that she talks her feelings, rather than feeling them. They shine through well enough in her actions, I think, and she'd be a stronger character if you relied on showing her emotions and past through those actions rather than having her say them conveniently at her colleagues. You can absolutely have conversations that hint at her past, but I think hint is the key word there: you maybe go a bit far, and it makes those conversations feel like set pieces that have been dropped in just to reveal her backstory.

I don't think any of these flaws are insurmountable, by the way! I do really like your story, and I think you've got the makings of something really good here. I'm aware I'm offering a lot of critique, but I'm trying to do so with the goal of helping you polish what you have, rather than insisting that it's terrible and needs reworking -- and I'd hope that that's what all your reviewers are trying to do; it's just that sometimes it's a bit of a hard balance to strike correctly.